The equestrian summer season has been resoundingly normal this year – Sally Cooper spoke to competitors at the County Show to see why they do it
What a difference a year makes! As the summer draws to a close and autumn commences its mellow fruitfulness it seems a good point to reflect on the equine summer that we have all once again enjoyed.
As Covid limitations become a thankfully-hazy memory, the equestrian calendar was incredibly normal this year, to the benefit of both the horse and rider. We have enjoyed the return of Pony Club camp, adult camps, dressage competitions, three day events, horse shows and, of course, that oh-so-very British agricultural show.
Our own Dorset County Show was back at full throttle for 2023. The winner of the In Hand Veteran Class and Champion Veteran Cup, Teresa, has been showing successfully for years (whispers decades!) and after a ten year break – including the Covid seasons – was so pleased to be back among the friendly Dorset horse community this summer, feeling the buzz of the showing arena once again.
Not the rider!
This year Teresa Elson has been showing her 19-year-old veteran (that’s an elderly horse, not a rider classification!) who is a skewbald Irish Draught crossed Thoroughbred, a pleasant chap called ‘Aussie Boy’ or just Aussie to his mates.
Teresa had been showing him under saddle (ridden), to the amusement of many; Aussie’s brakes seem unable to work in the arena. Therefore, this summer Teresa changed to in-hand showing (where the rider walks, and just leads the horse) – and Aussie promptly returned to his usual impeccable manners and happy disposition.
She was delighted to win her Veteran Class at the County Show, and was even more proud to ultimately win the coveted Champion Veteran Cup for the overall three equine sections.
Teresa has several tips for successful equine showing. Firstly, ensure that the horse is fully fit and healthy – watch their weight, as overweight animals are actively discouraged.
Do practise in-hand work with your horse in walk, trot and standing still in a square position – this is what the judge will expect to see.
In particular, she says to remember that at the end of a day it is a subjective competition – different judges look for different things – and if it doesn’t go your way it’s still been a great experience. And of course there is always another show!
It’s always easy to see happy faces in the show-ring, regardless of placings. The general consensus of the County Show group seemed to be that the buzz simply from being there and showing is what makes all the hard work and early mornings worthwhile.
‘It’s all about the partnership that you develop with your horse,’ says Teresa. ‘The benefits that you gain from that friendship are immeasurable, no matter about the rosettes.’