Stuart Hollings: ‘like a scene from the Muppet Show’ [H&H VIP]

  • It may not seem a milestone compared to the Royal Bath & West Show, which was founded in 1777, nor compete with the outstanding achievements of AP McCoy, but I was proud nevertheless to celebrate the 25th anniversary of my North of England Spring Show last month.

    In 1989, I couldn’t comprehend why we didn’t have an equivalent event to the South of England Spring Show in the north, knowing how much support there was for showing. Consequently, the title was born well before approaching the relevant governing bodies and Osbaldeston proprietors Norman and Mollie Bargh to stage the appropriately named two-day horse show. Pony day was added on later.

    Apart from holding prestigious qualifying rounds, I also realised — from my fond memories of the Stoneleigh indoor Spring Show — how vital novices’ classes are to competitors, especially at the beginning of the season. One of the highlights for me has been watching some of our North of England novice winners go on to enjoy illustrious careers in the showring, including victories at Horse of the Year Show.

    Down memory lane

    At the first event, the hack champion received a shirt as a prize. Since then, presenting thousands of pounds worth of products to competitors has become a feature of the show and I’m bowled over by the generosity of those donors and, of course, our loyal sponsors.

    One of my favourite photographs from the show, which appeared in H&H, looked like a scene from the Muppet Show. Julie Bankier, winner of the mini show pony championship, was surrounded by more than 100 Beanie animals, donated by Claudia Cooper for the mini classes.

    In contrast, two incidents still haunt me to this day, despite not ending badly. A working hunter stopped abruptly at a fence and its front stud became embedded in the filler. Thankfully the horse stood like a rock while the log pile was dismantled underneath him.

    The other was like a dramatic storyline from one of the soaps. A distraught exhibitor announced that there was a major gas leak in the horsebox lines. The problem was located but all movements in the area came to a halt for more than an hour as a spark from a horseshoe could, theoretically, have triggered an explosion.

    It takes a hardworking team to produce a successful show and without sounding like an Oscar recipient, I would like to thank all those involved over the years — and here’s to another 25!

    Ref: H&H 14 May 2015