“The Future of Showing” report

What is the FUTURE of SHOWING? An open debate held at Stoneleigh Park on Sunday 21st February 2016 with panel members of Sandy Anderson and Emma Wardell from Grandstand Media, Professional producers Craig Elenor and Rory Gilsenan, M&M exhibitor and judge Lizzie Briant, amateur exhibitor Jonathan Fry, show organiser Carolle Lee Jones and journalist Tricia Johnson.


Firstly, thank you to Gail Chapman from TSR for arranging the event. It was a fantastic opportunity for key issues of the showing world to be debated. Although it was sad that the BSPS, Sports Horse (GB), BSHA and some of the breed societies didn’t send a representative – this represents one of the key issues of the showing world with no co-operation between societies.

1. Does the panel think that individual societies are doing enough to assist in the training of judges for mixed mountain and moorland classes? Surely there is always more that can be done but it appears that some societies do more than others to encourage judges training. The issue with M&M judges is the broad range of breeds you need to know about and without all the societies co-operating it is tough to get a full and complete training opportunity.

2. Should ponies 128cm and under have a rider weight limit or would offering guidelines be sufficient such as in hunter weight classes? This became a discussion about adults riding small breed M&Ms and the issue of children being taller than they used to be but the welfare issue here is more important. For me, the bigger issue is adults warming up small show ponies which can not be physically acceptable. But in relation to adults on small breeds it was interesting to hear the variety of opinions on this. If it’s a welfare issue then a weight limit guidance should be given. But on a basic level a too big rider simply ruins the picture. Junior classes are provided to give younger riders their own classes.

3. Fells and Dales make up some of the largest classes in HOYS Qualifiers. Is there any possibility in the future of splitting this class and is this desirable? It was really interesting to hear from Grandstand Media about the statistics of classes and they look at who is entering qualifiers, where they are from, numbers of breeds. So the fact is, if the numbers are right then the split will happen. But will the individual class at HOYS encourage new entries or do you need the new entires before you get the class?

4. Should the Junior M&M be open to all breeds and should it be split by breeds or height and if the larger breeds are allowed what should the age limit be? The introduction of a junior class at HOYS was very popular so now the question is how to develop this. The problem is you get muddled in a maze of personal anecdotes – my tall daughter who is only 11 but rides a highland, my nervous 14 year old who’s not ready to compete against the adults… The real focus should be on what is best for the sport and that seemed to be all breeds covered for up to 16 year olds.

5. M&M LR/FR and plaited LR/FR have different ages should these be revised and should M&M FR have to wear a snaffle bridle like its plaited counterpart? Unanimously, people felt 10 was old enough for FR riders. Interestingly, the snaffle rule was not put in for M&M FR classes because of Exmoors. My issue is that if a pony is too strong for a snaffle then it shouldn’t be a FR. And a stronger bit needs the hands to match which is too much to expect of these young jockeys. Plus this comes down to the bigger issue of ponies being rushed at the start too…

6. Currently multiple memberships are required to enter classes at RIHS and HOYS. Some societies charge an extra fee to obtain a card to take part in these classes, why? In the best interests of the exhibitor should membership requirements be scrapped for these qualifying shows and the classes be open to all? Unanimously people were against no membership requirements – there needs to be some controls over eligibility to enter. The extra charge was said to cover the extra administration needed for qualifiers. In an ideal world, people would just need to be registered to a society and therefore could choose which society based on what they offer but there is no motivation to do this. Societies that have the monopoly on certain qualifying classes won’t want to give that up. People join the BSPS to be able to compete at RIHS – why would the BSPS want to give that up? Plus there is the issue of people totally obsessed with qualifiers but that is another article – here.

7. Is a voluntary code of conduct for judges covering ethics and perception a good idea? No. The sport needs cleaning up, bad judging needs stamping down but a voluntary code is ridiculous. Roger Stack bought in some humour with a classic story about supposedly fixed judging when Lady Penelope was rumoured to win because she was “servicing the judge” – she won because she had the better horse. Gotta love Mr Stack.

8. If an amateur keeping their horse/pony at home cannot qualify towards the end of the season, should they ask a pro rider to show it for them and if it then qualifies what message does this give? There were lots of gasps and tutting at the idea of “rent-a-jockey”. Rory Gilsenan commented that it was better if the horse had at least been on your yard for a while but also made a jokey remark “you’d be amazed at what I’d do for money”. The issue is perspective – it’s hard to see it being any more than simply the right face on board if the professional just gets on for the class. Surely the focus should not be about stopping it happening but stopping it having effect?

As time was limited the last few questions were rushed through. Read more questions and have your say at The Showing Register.

This was a fantastic and thought provoking event. I feel like maybe the focus should be more towards solutions though – we know there are issues, what matters is how to fix them!

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  1. There has been an inaccuracy on my recent report on the “future of showing”. Lizzie Briant said that she would ‘look’ — and presumably mark — ‘favourably’ on a pony ridden by a child, provided that it was ridden well. She did NOT suggest a 5 mark penalty.
    I am sorry for any offence caused.

  2. Love this! So glad to see the various societys come together. But I must say I have a 13.2hh show pony who I have had 11-12 years now, but due to being 19 I cannot ride her in any classes. Plus there are no jockeys to ride her as she isn’t an easy ride. I think there should be a weight limit, rather than age. I know a 14 year old who stands at 5’6 and weighs about 9 stone (and is acceptable to ride), yet myself who stands at 5’2 and weighs 7.5stone cannot 🙁 All because I am older.

    1. I am with you on the 5″2 stakes and could still be riding my 13hander happily but don’t you want to go up to a bigger horse? A new challenge?
      If you went by weight of riders rather than height would you not lose competing against your age group?
      And how would it be policed? Scales at shows? Would we end up with tall kids with eating disorders to keep their little ponies…
      Lots to consider!

  3. I think it is essential that M&M classes have riders of any age ( allowing for a under 16 class as well). Not all adults want to ride larger animals and be up against “Robert Walker” – they may enjoy their riding without being super talented at it. They make up huge numbers which help keep entries up.

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