‘Get outside, it’s time to embrace open spaces’

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  • Top show horse producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable shares her advice on preparing for bigger rings and why riders need to take advantage of classes or risk losing them

    The 2023 season is under way and it’s lovely to see fellow competitors out and about again. The qualifiers for the Royal International are now upon us and while it’s great to see combinations gaining their tickets, I would advise riders to think about their preparation for this show well in advance.

    Many of the shows around this time of year are held in equestrian centres, which have fabulous surfaces when the ground is still so wet, but we need to remember that the bigger shows have large grass rings, and I don’t think enough people are prepared for this until it’s too late.



    My advice is to get out of the goldfish bowl and use the fields and other open spaces around you. All too often I’ve seen riders freeze in terror when they come out of the smaller arenas and onto the grass at shows. They need to replicate this type of open environment beforehand – whether that’s going on a fun ride or possibly cross-country schooling.

    Have a go at losing the security of the arena’s four walls so it’s not such a shock to the system for both horse and rider.

    Support these useful classes

    As I’m on the committee for Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain’s spring show, we’ve been busy preparing for last Sunday’s (2 April) fixture at Addington. We put on all the usual classes, plus a few extra ones that I really hoped would garner more support.

    We had an unaffiliated novice show horse class and a show horse training and turnout class, which I would consider extremely useful to both professional and amateur yards, but why are people not using these classes as an educational step? People don’t seem to be taking the opportunity to gain ring experience or use this as a warm-up for something more important.

    The sports horse classes are also seeing few entries at shows. It’s worrying to think that show organisers could potentially drop them altogether if they aren’t better supported. Any type of horse can use them irrespective of what discipline they’re destined to end up in – they’re not asked to jump a fence, but the basics of walk, trot and canter are performed so they’re not too dissimilar to a dressage test and highly beneficial for our young horses.

    An exciting, emotional time

    A big secret I’d kept for over a month, even from family and friends, was that Lizzie Briant and I were recognised in the Demise Honours as Members of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO).

    The awards were for our services to The late Queen’s horses and ponies. I served the monarch for 20 years, producing her plaited home-bred horses while Lizzie produced the mountain and moorland ponies.

    It’s been an amazing and emotional time, but also totally unexpected. Riding for The Queen has been the most special journey and her passing has left a big hole in the horse community. I have four horses that I’m showing for The King this year and it’s wonderful that he will continue to support his mother’s love.

    With Royal Windsor on the horizon, it will be a sad, very emotional time and will feel different to me because of those special memories, but those memories are also fond in our hearts. Now we must focus on making new memories that we will look back on in the future.

    ● How do you prepare horses for large grass show rings? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to share your experiences in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 6 April

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