Robert Walker: It really put showing into perspective *H&H VIP*

Opinion

As we get to that time in the season where many are still on the merry-go-round of trying to qualify for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), it’s nice to look back at a great summer of showing. Fixtures such as the Royal International (RIHS), Great Yorkshire and Dublin have been well-supported with five rows of spectators at some.

This year’s RIHS took me back to the days of Ponies (UK) (PUK) some 20 years ago. We’d always go — not just for the quality ponies but also the social aspect. People would take a week off work to head off on their summer holiday and would catch up with friends, also enjoying a party or two.

Due to cost, my father didn’t register my ponies, so I started going to PUK with a friend and I loved it. Showing can be a lonely sport and it can be a regime for us, and especially for our children; getting up at the crack of dawn, travelling for hours and then perhaps not having the best day in the ring. Shows like PUK keep their enthusiasm up so they want to go to another show the following weekend.

Dublin is one we never, ever miss. It’s the one time of year we get to see the breeders of some of our horses and look out for future stars. The breeders take such pride in producing a young horse good enough to compete at Dublin.

This year, an experience in the grandstand put showing into perspective. I was sitting watching the small hunters and next to me was a support group of a competitor in the class. She was called out about 15th in the line-up and she received the biggest cheer of the day.

It was a reality check, as most of us are dampened when we don’t even win. This rider was smiling and was evidently just happy that her horse had behaved himself, given the judge a good ride and that she was there competing at her national show.

Still a show horse

It’s interesting to see the shift in focus in horse classes in recent years, particularly in workers. Years ago, you could go to a big show and watch the quality weight horses which had competed on the flat go round the worker track. But today, it seems the courses aren’t as inviting, so are more suited to the showjumper types.

The round is often decidedby the course-builders who design tight, technical tracks, meaning clear rounds are more elusive. Gone are the days when the judges had several clears to assess in the flat portion of a class.

We must remember that a working hunter is still a show horse, and conformation should still be carefully assessed and considered. We all know a showjumper can come into the ring and jump a clear round, but it might not have the best style or the limbs or type for the job. The judges still have to award 20/20 for both ride and conformation, meaning a four-faulter could still easily come up to stand at the top of a class.

A few weeks ago, I went to an initial meeting for a new “producers group”. The aim of this group is to give riders a voice and possibly a seat at the table in the Showing Council, so societies can become more in line.

This will hopefully make rules and regulations more workable and easy to follow.

It’s early days, but I think it’s a positive step in making our sport more enjoyable and accessible by putting riders with experience on a governing panel.

Ref Horse & Hound; 5 September 2019