Stuart Hollings: Spend on tuition, not products *H&H VIP*

Opinion

During the Christmas festivities, someone sent me a copy of a Horse & Hound portrait gallery piece on show producer Colin Rose (who sadly died in 2004) written over 30 years ago by a lesser known author, Nigel Hollings.

I’m sure I must have helped my brother write it as it ain’t that bad! Then again, Colin was the perfect subject for an interview, being one of the greatest showmen — well, before Hugh Jackman.

Colin’s artistry on the ground was phenomenal; I was often mesmerised watching him lunge several ponies simultaneously on the same circle, like a Barnum circus act. Also something of a trendsetter, he was the first person I ever saw donning a dinner suit when showing in the evening performance of the in-hand championship at Wembley in 1973.

At the 1988 Royal Show, I was on the foal end of the champion pony broodmare who was beginning to tire after a busy morning when it came to the Lloyds Bank qualifier in the afternoon. Handler Colin simply adjusted her bridle prior to running his show cane along the railings before the initial trot out, and she rose (no pun intended) to the occasion to take the ticket.

The article revealed Colin’s glimpse into the future of showing which is so on trend today: “Many modern-day exhibitors want instant success unlike the professional owners of old, such as Alicia Stubbings, Kathleen Coates and Albert Deptford, who were prepared to wait two or three seasons for a champion to be made.”

Larger classes and less time

Last term, judge Allan Robertson was concerned by the number of four-year-olds contesting Royal International qualifying shows as early as April. I, too, was alarmed recently after reading that the campaigns for some of this season’s new intakes include Horse of the Year Show qualifiers in their first year under saddle.

Colin also felt the elegance of showing was becoming lost even then — with larger classes being judged in less time and with the majority going moderately. He added that “parents need to spend more money on showing tuition than products’’.

Olympia judge Heather Prescott was looking for ponies that stood out from the crowd, and was disappointed that some riders were “very guarded’’ and performed shows which were “too safe’’.

This sentiment was echoed several times when I reported last season. Some judges commented that competitors entered the ring already beaten by looking down, with their mounts on the forehand, instead of selling their animals with a swagger-like walk. And that was just for starters!

A prime example of how raising one’s game in the showmanship department can win the day was undoubtedly when Robert Walker took the second day supreme title at Addington last September. He had nothing to lose and just went for it, aboard what many considered to be the “underdog’’.

So make a belated New Year’s resolution to be braver in your presentation this season as championed by another showing icon, Robert Oliver.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 March 2019

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