Stuart Hollings: Has the showing world gone mad? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Showing regulations are in place not only to safeguard sportsmanship, but also to guide and protect our judges and competitors alike.

    There are certainly not “there to be broken”, as one exhibitor recently quipped. Fortunately, this is the mindset of a very small minority but, nevertheless, it is the reason rule books usually increase in size, when loopholes are discovered.

    However, everyone does agree that rules must not only be crystal clear to be functional — words like “must” or “must not” are much better than “recommend”, “may” and “should”, which don’t mean diddly-squat! But rules also need to be more uniform among the governing bodies.

    Shoeing dilemma

    While reporting at an early show holding both Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) qualifying rounds, I uncovered one such anomaly regarding the shoeing of hunters.

    The Sport Horse Breeding (GB) ruling states that hunters must be shod, whereas the British Show Horse Association (BSHA) leaves it to the exhibitors’ discretion. In practice, the first rule applies to RIHS qualifiers and the other is relevant to the HOYS circuit. What a ludicrous situation — and one which definitely needs rectifying.

    There also needs to be a regulation about tack malfunction.

    The Horse & Hound headline on 21 September, “A versatile cob survives a tack malfunction en route to standing supreme”, obviously caught my attention. Apparently, the girth snapped during the individual show and the rider continued, to receive a 100% score from the three BSHA appointed judges.

    In my humble opinion, this demonstrated a lapse of common sense and a breach of health and safety protocol. It was a show class after all — not Britain’s Got Talent.

    I would have called a halt to the proceedings. Then, as it was a supreme championship, granted them another opportunity to perform with a replacement girth.

    A safety question

    There was a similar scenario involving another winner at an affiliated winter show this season, which was potentially dangerous on so many levels.

    As the horse and rider started their show, the bit snapped in two. They continued regardless, producing a well-executed and mannerly performance, albeit with no steering. Then, on returning to the line-up, the steward actually removed the broken bit and made a hackamore arrangement by attaching the reins to the noseband for the lap of honour.

    Has the showing world gone mad? Regardless that both riders were extremely competent, what would have happened if they had injured themselves, or the horses had bolted, hurting others? Would the judges have been held accountable?

    I am astonished when occasionally an unwritten rule is mistakenly thought to be legitimate. For instance, although this seems to be frowned upon, where does it actually say in the rules that officials must not touch animals when judging?

    With so many mountain and moorland ponies and feathered coloured exhibits in the ring, it is imperative now more than ever that judges are able to examine what is hidden.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 May 2018