South African showing royalty Gregory Goss shares his thoughts after his second judging stint at Royal Windsor Horse Show
I WAS incredibly honoured to be invited to come over from South Africa to judge at the 2022 Royal Windsor Horse Show for the second time in my career, especially in the jubilee year where there was an added touch of prestige and excitement.
I arrived in London at the beginning of the week and, after a day of spectating on Friday, I took to the ring to judge Saturday’s mini show ponies with co-judge Pat Pattinson.
These ponies were spectacular, and the lead-reins (Brideswood Prince Regent and Barkway Take That) at the top of the championship were magnificent; easily the best two lead-reins I’ve ever seen. Both ponies shone and Pat and I agreed on our decision immediately. The turnout of combinations in each class was immaculate, too, and I’m sure we were judging many top riders of the future.
On the final day of the show, I officiated the riding horses alongside ride judge Katie Duxbury. The general tone from spectators around the ringside was that the riding horse championship was the strongest of the show. Katie and I were singing from the same hymn sheet all day. Katie gave each horse an amazing ride; she is a soft yet effective rider and she rode with style and elegance.
Katie had some wonderful rides and from a conformational point of view the firsts and seconds were almost faultless. Our winning small and eventual champion (Times Square III) was superb with wonderful movement and manners; in the main ring he stood like a real champion. He was the sort of horse I was itching to ride.
The championship was dramatic and the decision ended up being a process of elimination. The winning large riding horse (Kellythorpes Obsession) and novice (King Of Clubs) whom we both liked unfortunately made mistakes in the ring. The reserve (Assagart Vision) who had placed second in the large section rose to the occasion and went even better than she had in the morning.
“We look up to it”
In comparison to showing in South Africa, the UK has much bigger class numbers across the board. While quality is similar, it’s been a treat to have such a range of beautiful entries to choose from. British showing is the best in the world and we look up to it. We often have judges fly over from the UK to judge and teach us.
During my own career I’ve ridden many top horses, including the riding horse Dark Rider. He won many titles, including under British judges. On a good day he was unbeatable and on others he could blow up. He really had to be well worked in to get the right tune out of him, but many class show horses can be this way. I don’t compete anymore and I satisfy my love for showing through judging appointments, but I had 45 years of enjoyment at championship level.
In South Africa the riding horse classes are arguably the most popular. Most show horses are ex-racehorses retired from the track, and they usually fit into the type which isn’t quite a hack or a hunter. It’s a rewarding process, as the horses need to be found, reschooled and given a complete re-education to prepare them for the show ring.
As the numbers in South Africa are smaller, we don’t have a qualification system like that seen in the UK. We tend to have three or four bigger shows in Johannesburg, the main region for showing, and some training shows which are ideal for bringing novices on.
Our Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is held in February and we always have an overseas judge come over. They are complete outsiders and we can learn so much from them.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 19 May, along with our full report from Royal Windsor
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