Stuart Hollings: The current scenario is more serious *H&H Plus*


  • As we embark on another decade of showing, we also find ourselves living amid an unprecedented and movie-like crisis with increases of Covid-19 cases reported daily throughout the world. The motivational poster published by the British Government in 1939 in preparation for World War II, stating “Keep calm and carry on”, has never been more relevant.

    Last month, as show secretary of the now-postponed North of England spring show – originally scheduled for Easter – I felt as if I was preparing for an exam I was not likely to pass. The nearest comparable scenario I’ve encountered was in 2001, when county shows and events fell victim to the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

    With this is mind, I ventured into my loft to dust off a bundle of treasured Horse & Hound magazines from that year for reference. Shows such as Royal Windsor, the Royal, Lincoln, Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire were cancelled. And it was reported in the 14 June issue that the loss of the Royal Welsh Show cost the principality’s economy £26m.

    However, the equine section of the East of England Show did go ahead in mid-June, and the report headline read, “A county show at last.”

    Other horse events, including South of England spring show, Three Counties and Devon, rescheduled later in the year. And a new fixture, Aylesbury Horse Show, replaced the cancelled Bucks County and donated £1,750 to the Royal Agricultural Benefit Institution.

    Keeping horses on “tickover”

    From memory, the British Show Pony Society was the most successful organisation in maintaining a healthy number of qualifying rounds for the Royal International, due to its area network. And Sport Horse Breeding (GB) and the British Show Hack Cob and Riding Horse Association (now the British Show Horse Association) introduced special emergency rules allowing non-qualified horses to compete at Hickstead.

    However, in the event of excess entries, these would have to go through a preliminary judging process beforehand for selection into the main class with the qualified entrants.

    On the in-hand circuit, both the champion and reserves went through to Horse of the Year Show at a depleted number of qualifying rounds. I judged that final at Wembley with Stella Harries. Our champion, Rosslyn Sweet Repose, qualified after standing reserve at Aylesbury show.

    In an article wherein competitors were asked how they had coped with being grounded in a no-show situation, one producer admitted that she had never appreciated going to a show more, after keeping her horses on “tickover” for what seemed like an eternity.

    Keep us informed

    It will be interesting to see how the rest of this season pans out, as the current scenario seems far more serious than in 2001. And I believe that the decision as to whether showing will continue is likely to be in the hands of the government, not the individual competitor.

    In the meantime, constant communication is key and it is vital that individual shows and governing bodies provide competitors and others involved in the showing industry with up-to-date information about this precarious situation. Keep safe.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 April 2020