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‘Please make marks obtainable on the day’

  • Native pony specialist Rebecca Penny on why not sharing mark sheets after a class can cause problems

    WHILE showing wouldn’t often be perceived as the most riveting sport for spectators, I found myself sat on the edge of my seat at this year’s Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) while watching some of the best in the business battle it out for the hotly contested supreme titles. It was fantastic to see riders taking a few risks and really going all out to clinch these prestigious championships.

    In the pony supreme Mia Donaldson and show pony and part-bred champion Wilderness Early Bird, and Ruby Ward and working hunter pony champion Noble Ronan, proved exactly why they are both worthy nominees for the new British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Robert Oliver showman’s award. Both gave a fabulous account of themselves while also playing to their mounts’ strengths; Ruby impressively incorporated the main ring bullfinch into her individual performance.

    Fellow H&H columnist Robert Walker (View Point) and Danielle Heath (Forgeland Hyde Park) kept us all in suspense during a nail-biting ride-off for the horse supreme when they had finished on equal marks. Both riders came out and gave everything they had in a bid to seal the deal and it made for great viewing. This sort of thing injects a little excitement into showing.

    The atmosphere in general at the RIHS was fantastic; the classes were full of quality and there was a great buzz around all the rings, giving us all a much-needed lift as showing in general has faced far too much negativity of late.

    As a rider I fully embraced the stance of no set shows. It gives you the opportunity really to show off what each animal does best and lets you play to your strengths.

    One thing that did become apparent though was that when riders competing in flat classes in the working hunter ring were tasked with doing a show around the course of fences, some failed to plan accordingly. They made messy turns and awkward finishes, whereas the ones who had planned their performance from outside found lines through the obstacles and gave more polished shows, and consequently reaped the rewards.

    Mark sheets

    This year it seems to be becoming the norm for mark sheets in Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifying classes not to be displayed until several days after the event; in one instance competitors waited over seven days after a county show to view the marks online.

    While I appreciate it’s just another task for a secretary to undertake, I don’t feel it’s right for them not to be made available on the day of competition as historically they always have been.

    While I understand no qualification is 100% verified until your letter arrives through the post, what happens if and when the marks emerge and a discrepancy is found? Especially in the peak of the season, when we could be contesting multiple qualifiers in one week.

    Hypothetically you could have won a qualifying class and subsequently made the decision not to travel to the next one, especially given the hot weather and hard ground we are currently working with. But should an error be discovered later on, it could potentially have a serious knock-on effect to qualifying shows later that week, and could create missed opportunities or wasted entry fees and diesel spends.

    • Have you ever missed out on a qualifying opportunity due to a marking error? Let us know at

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 18 August

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