THE showing world learned with great sadness of the unexpected death of Michael Sharpley on Saturday, 4 September.
He was known by everyone in the showing world and liked and respected in equal measure. His career as a judge took him all over the world. He was considered to be one of the most knowledgeable and experienced judges around. This was reflected by the fact that he was a British Show Pony Society (BSPS) judge for some 30 years and held a star for all sections of judging.
He judged at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) five times and, in the millennium year, adjudicated over the prestigious Cuddy supreme in-hand championship. Having a particular interest in mountain and moorland breeds, he was an A panel judge for the National Pony Society (NPS), which allowed him to judge at the coveted Olympia ridden supreme.
Despite his busy schedule, he was still prepared to give up his little remaining spare time and judge at many unaffiliated shows.
His first involvement with the equestrian world was as a member of the East Essex Hunt Pony Club branch as a child. His enthusiasm for working with ponies and horses led him to work for Nora Lagdon at Great Leighs in Essex, where he broke hunters and hacks and turned hunter liveries out to perfection for their owners. He was also a riding instructor and rode and helped to train Nora’s two point-to-pointers.
After several years he went to work for the Honourable Mrs K S (Valentine) Richardson. Together they established the Hungry Hall Stud, breeding and producing Connemara ponies for showing, both in-hand and under saddle.
They bought many ponies from Ireland, including the famous Easter Kitty, one of their foundation mares. Michael and Valentine also had a love of whippets and anyone visiting the yard would have been familiar with their dogs’ enthusiastic greeting. Visiting unannounced was ill-advised!
In addition to his judging, Michael devoted some 25 years of his life as chairman of BSPS Area 15. For a while he was also chairman of area chairmen and a member of the NPS council. He was one of the few senior Connemara stallion inspectors for the Connemara Society and a member of its committee. In 2008 he received the BSPS lifetime achievement award.
Outside the showing world, he had a great love of food and socialising and was a member of the Witham Amateur Dramatics Society.
His wit was dry and his one-liners were often devastating. The sound of his laugh, which was unmistakable, would fill a room or even a showground.
Michael was always helpful and encouraging. He would chat to anyone and offer advice whenever asked. Showing members new and old have learnt much from him over the years and his contributions should never be forgotten.
He will be sadly missed but fondly remembered.