So, I got a bit serious and detailed in Part 1 – very unlike me but occasionally it happens. Horse welfare concerns are serious though and it’s something I am passionate about. Part 2 will involve discrimination, terrified children and painted yellow bottoms….. Read on to find out more (I am learning from all those annoying click bait stories I see on Facebook!)
Part 2 was titled “Suitably Mounted in the Show Ring” – not as rude as it sounded.
Chloe Chubb opened the discussion with a call for common sense (perhaps not common if it needs to be called for repeatedly). She commented that she rarely saw someone unsuitable at higher levels and so perhaps more education is needed at lower levels. She made the valid point that a pony struggling with an unsuitable rider is unlikely to perform well so it will show in its marks as it is.
We trust judges to tell us if our horse meets breed standards, we trust them to tell us if our horse is unsound – surely we just trust them to tell us if they feel we are unsuitable?
Tom Best led the second question – “We have heard a lot about shepherds and M&M ponies on social media. Is the weight they should have carried as a working native breed relevant to a modern native performance animal?” His knowledge of breeds and the history was fascinating – if he hasn’t written a book then he should. But the short answer, I s of course not – evolution happens, breeds evolve to fit modern needs. Although he also stated that we need to be “realistic about what we are expecting them to do” taking their history into account. Chloe agreed but definitely had a more modern perspective.
That’s where subjectivity of judges is great though; they bring different features, priorities and histories. Competitors can always choose not to go under a particular judge if their perspective is beyond what you feel is right!
Robert Parker-Jones is a legend – not that I needed to go to this debate to know that. He introduced himself as “liking holidays” and the audience quickly added “and food.” He certainly added some light relief although is obviously knowledgeable and well respected. He discussed the “overall picture” and interestingly said that the marks system limits how you can mark suitability, suggesting “manners and presentation” may be a better heading. This would allow judges to mark down what they don’t like about the picture – be that a too big rider or a too short jacket. He really doesn’t like short jackets! My favourite quote of the day had to be that some larger people particularly should “cover extremities with a jacket rather than paint it yellow.”
Chloe and Kirstie Lucas (the final panel member) quickly pointed out that marking the picture could cause the issue of a “cute” child on a pony undeservably going above a better pony. And there is certainly a difference between suitability being a welfare concern or an aesthetic thing.
Kirstie represented “mums” on the panel and addressed the final question “How could this discussion effect children”. She mentioned statics that children are getting bigger but height limits for ponies haven’t changed. Asking whether first riddens are a type or a height – and why shouldn’t a young, tall child be able to do first riddens where they are comfortable and building confidence.
She also said that ponies were getting stronger, longer striding and are now needing adults to maintain them. A topic for another blog, I think.
She concluded that welfare was important and Pony Clubs have weight restrictions and no higher anorexia levels that she knew of. I feel that when it comes to children, people can be too worried sometimes – it’s ok to say a child is too big. 1 in 100 may react badly but in my opinion, it doesn’t mean ponies should suffer to protect the 1. If you have bred a super tall/large child then maybe a different sport would suit. I was told at 5ft2 and nicknamed “Shortcake”, Basketball and Highjump were not for me and that was ok. Although, it may explain my high heel obsession…..