The BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship at the London International Horse Show at Olympia on Monday, December 21, is one of the most prestigious finals in the showing world. It showcases our wonderful native breeds, which have qualified at shows across the country, with one from each breed going through.
At Olympia, the finalists are judged in three sections: Dartmoor, Exmoor, Shetland, Welsh Section A and Section B; Dales, Fell, Highland, Connemara and New Forest, and Welsh Section C and D. They are assessed by four judges, with two doing performance, the others doing conformation. This year’s officials are Martin Jones and Rodger James (performance), with Len Bigley — best known for his Llanarth Welsh stud, and Henrietta Knight (conformation), National Hunt trainer and Connemara breeder.
The contestants do their individual show for the judges and are then stripped for the conformation judges. Each judge then marks the pony out of 50. They will be looking for not just way of going and manners, but also breed type, which is vital in this class. The ride judges’ marks are displayed above the arena, but the conformation judges’ scores are not, so that the final result is not given away before the afternoon’s final judging.
There is always a terrific atmosphere for this championship, with many in the crowd being supporters of the competitors in the ring, so expect whooping and hollering. The audience is knowledgeable, too, and you will be able to tell if they agree with the judges’ displayed scores — they tend to be quite vocal.
This year’s field includes 17 Welsh ponies, five Connemaras, four Fells — including the striking grey Murthwaite Windrush — two Dales, two Shetlands, two Dartmoors, one Exmoor, one New Forest and three Highlands, two of which have the same owner.
For my money, I’d go for one of the Highlands, Ben Breac of Croila (pictured above), who has had the most fantastic season. He qualified for this final by standing M&M supreme at Royal Windsor and took the Heritage supreme at the BSPS Summer Championships, too. But Olympia is Olympia and, on the day, anything is possible.
Image: Ben Breac of Croila, pictured above at the North of England Show, is a strong contender for the BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship at Olympia. Image by Real Time Imaging/Steve Dawe