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BSPS’s Simon Richardson on the winter championships: ‘All of it comes all the way down to nice teamwork’

  • Simon Richardson, BSPS winter championship show chairman and a popular show commentator, reviews the society’s winter championships

    I’VE just returned from three days of action at the 2022 British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Winter Championships (30 April–2 May). This was the first time I’ve stood as the winter championship show’s chairman, after over a decade as show director and nine years as winter championships vice-chairman.

    I’ve been involved with the show through many different phases. There’s nothing that hasn’t happened over the years, and as a society we’ve coped with all eventualities head on. It all comes down to great teamwork and communication, both in the lead up to the show and during the event itself.

    The preliminary work which takes place in head office is immense, and the BSPS prides itself on getting the timetable right. During the championships we held one ring for 10 minutes, but aside from this there were no clashes, which is a credit to those who juggle the ring timetables. The weather was kind to us, too, which always sets people up in the right frame of mind.

    Gold Cup glory

    THE highlight of day one was the Gold Cup working hunter final, which follows the format of a one-day event. Competitors perform a dressage test and a working hunter round before taking on a showjumping course in the evening performance. Day two was principally for the novice classes, while the restricted classes took up the majority of the final day.

    My personal highlight was the instructional working hunter pony classes held on Saturday. Three judges officiated each section, with Pam Prickett (jump), Victoria Leavesley (show) and Craig Elenor (conformation) all giving their advice. The competitors were offered tips after their performance, and the general feedback was that combinations learnt a lot in a short space of time from the three experts. In effect, they received the benefit of three mini lessons in one. The conformation section was particularly helpful as many children don’t consider the importance of this phase and can tend to relax and think the class is over once they’ve jumped their round or ridden their show.

    In general the entries were very good. The mountain and moorland classes only continue to grow in popularity and it was nice to see strong show pony numbers. The show hunter pony entries were slightly disappointing, but those animals who took the championships were super examples. Tiny tots sections also welcomed strong numbers; these are our jockeys of the future and it’s important we nurture their interest.

    The first Winter Worker Stakes final was held and the feedback has been positive throughout the season. With no restrictions on rider age or height and type of ponies, competitors can give their animals a good experience and drop back a height section if they need to. We also had excellent course-builders in Steve Craddock, Peter Ball and Colin Ellison, all designing under the watchful eye of John Hall and aided by the material supplied by Arena UK.

    Costly business

    THE cost of running a show like the BSPS Winter Championships is staggering; probably more than most people realise. From the stewards who are in the ring from 8am until finish to the course-builders and the trained medics, who need to be on site 24/7. It takes manpower and resources, and while some may wince at the entry fees, we try to give everyone value for money.

    Showing in general is being impacted by rising fuel and living costs, and while I hope it will eventually settle, some will think twice about setting off in the lorry unless they have a few classes to enter and can be promised an enjoyable time.

    Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal International Horse Show are still on the minds of everyone, but the general consensus from grassroots competitors and those with novice ponies, is that the winter championships have a real place in the calendar. In a way, competitors can treat the champs like their own version of HOYS.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 12 May

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