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Way of Going - What a BSPS Judge is looking for
Lead Rein & First Ridden Ponies
Written by Jackie Beatham

Lead rein and first ridden ponies are the very foundation of the ridden showing world, they are the building blocks for the future, and as such great importance should be attributed to their type, manners, way of going, suitability and conformation. Judges should be creating a launch pad for correct training of both pony and rider, looking for a pony and rider that are in harmony and enjoying the class they are competing in.

Lead Rein
The lead rein pony must have a good walk always with a correct four time beat, they should not be overbent, and will have a steady head carriage, but at the same time have a quality and presence that says "look at me!" Leaders should be positioned at the shoulder, neither dragging nor holding the pony back and there should be a reasonable length to the lead rein. The correct hand to hold the lead rein in is the outside hand, so the inner hand may be used in an emergency situation to help the young rider.

The transitions in a lead rein pony should be smooth and the trot not overly extravagant, again attention should be paid to make sure the outline of the pony is soft and supple showing no tension or resentment.

As with all show animals the conformation should be correct, attention should be paid to the lead rein pony making sure it is not over wide (stretching little riders legs) Overweight ponies may be penalized. With all breeds of Mountain and Moorland, regardless of whether it is a Shetland, Welsh Section A or other small breed, the breed type and characteristics of their pony will be taken into consideration.

The general format of the class is that they enter the ring at walk and then will be asked to trot one at a time past the judge and halt. Once called into line the ponies will stand before the judge, and then be asked to walk away from the judge in a straight line then trot back towards the judge to assess conformation and straightness of movement. The lead rein pony is not "stripped" The short individual show (the composition of which can be left up to the exhibitor) will often include a trot figure of eight and should always finish with a halt in front of the judge. Occasionally a judge will give a set show.

BSPS A Lead Rein Pony should have a quality and presence that says "look at me! BSPS

Jackie Beatham


First Ridden
First ridden ponies should have more scope and size to them than the lead rein, and have the perfect manners that make them suitable for a safe transition for the rider to go off the lead. The overall picture should be one of pony and rider going freely and willingly forward in a confident and relaxed manner, the trot should have a cadence and rhythm to it.

In the initial go round the ponies walk and trot as a class, and sometimes change the rein. After the ponies have been called into line they will be asked to give an individual show, which would ideally include a walk, trot, and canter on both reins, finishing with a halt. In a first ridden class the ponies may be expected to strip, (take the saddles off) and the children asked to stand the pony in front of the judge who will assess its conformation, they will then be asked to walk away and trot directly back towards the judge, this is a phase of the class that is sometimes not practiced enough leaving a poor impression. Once the class is completed the ponies leave the ring, again in trot only.

BSPS First ridden ponies should have more scope and size to them than the lead rein BSPS

Jackie Beatham

Working Hunter Ponies
Written by Philip Hilton

A Working Hunter Pony class evolved from replicating a days hunting.

Arrive at the meet well turned out on a smart animal that is mannerly in company. It should have good conformation meaning a long and useful life as a hunter with minimal days off through injury. Most importantly it should be able to jump a range of natural jumps cleanly, in an efficient and comfortable manner.

An important part of the class in walking the course. Competitors should take this opportunity to observe any outside distractions, uneven ground or placing of hazards which may affect their ponies concentration during the round. It is important to walk the route which you will be taking. This should be a line which gives your pony the best opportunity to see and jump the obstacles without sharp turns or angles.

Judges will be looking for combinations going forward in a balanced rhythmical canter, meeting each fence without a break of stride and showing harmony between pony and rider. It is always good to see a pony pricking their ears and attacking the fences, giving his jockey an enjoyable ride. In cradle and nursery stakes classes manners are even more imperative. Ponies should be a "safe conveyance," carrying their young jockey in a relaxed manner, once again with that rhythmical canter and even pace, not rushing.

BSPS Handsome is as handsome does is a saying that best describes a good Working Hunter pony BSPS

Philip Hilton


Many cradle and nursery stakes ponies go on for years, teaching young people how to enjoy jumping in public. These schoolmaster ponies are invaluable, a bad experience at a young age can put off a jockey for life.

It is always important to walk the conformation ring. Quite often they are almost an afterthought, small, of a strange shape and sometimes on poor ground. To plan your show is imperative. Those 10 marks for manners can make the difference between a red rosette and no rosette at all. Whilst just as with other showing classes judges will be looking for good conformation, Working Hunter is a performance class with most of the focus put on a clear round. "Handsome is as handsome does" is a saying that best describes a good Working Hunter pony.

Many factors affect the result of a Working Hunter Pony class but when successful the intense satisfaction and feeling of achievement cannot be matched.

The Show Pony
Written by Mrs Jamie Mead

The British show pony, more than six decades after providing the inspiration for the society which bears its name, is still the envy of the world. Most people who have been involved with them, despite their equine interests progressing into horses and other disciplines, will admit that there is something about the true children's riding pony that captures your heart and the passion never quite diminishes.

After the dedication and expertise of the best riding pony breeders, the most important custodian of the show pony, is the judge. Their likes and dislikes, attitudes to manners and preference of type have, and continue to have enormous influence on the evolution of the show pony. In a review of the showing season in the late 1970's, a journalist wrote that it was nice to see a bay pony win ' instead of one of the ubiquitous chestnuts'. In another book in my library published a short time later, it says that the vast majority of judges will ' forgive a buck or two, it is only persistent bucking that will cost a pony its place'. How times - and trends have changed. Today, if you called ' the bay pony ' into line, you would be run over in the stampede and judges are much hotter on manners.


So what is a judge looking for in the ideal? Different judges will of course look for different things but the first, and most important thing is type. A show pony transported into a class of hunter ponies with their more workmanlike appearance, substance and limb combined with strong, straight movement designed to cope with heavy going, would look totally out of place.

The show pony is supremely elegant , graceful and full of quality yet still possessing adequate bone. The description of ' pretty' should apply to a show pony and never to a SHP but being ' weedy' is more of a crime than being of a stronger but still refined type.


The British show pony, more than six decades after providing the inspiration for the society which bears its name, is still the envy of the world 

A fine, quality head set well on to a neck which can be more 'swanlike' than the hunter pony's should blend into a good, sloping shoulder. A ' beautiful front ' is a prerequisite and when stripped, a lovely topline is always a plus. Limbs should, as in any showing class, be clean but in recent years, windgalls, thoroughpins and splints are more common sadly than they used to be. Action must be straight and true.

Handsome is as handsome does and what really sets the show pony apart is its way of going. They must - absolutely must - move and have that special something, the ' look at me ' attitude that makes them stand out and grab your attention. Movement and presence are vital as no matter how good the pony looks standing still , without these qualities, it will never win.

The best example of this is Holly of Spring who dominated the scene in the late 1970s being champion four years in succession at both RIHS and HOYS . Holly did not, as these results suggest, have perfect conformation. Her head was far from beautiful ( one well known breeder described it as being ' like a bucket' ) and to say her hind leg wasn't good would be an understatement. Yet this tiny model, standing at only 132cms had such incredible movement, an almost balletic athleticism, which combined with her presence meant she was utterly breathtaking. Judges were so captivated by her way of going , they forgave her defects. Her lack of height was totally irrelevant as she filled the eye as the best ponies do ; I can think of at least two other HOYS champions, Gems Signet ( Holly's sire) and Twylands Carillon ,who gave away more than 5 cms to their class rivals but never looked small, simply because of their scope and performance .

Forty years ago, ponies' individual shows were rather more individual. Most galloped ( as opposed to simply extending) and there was fierce competition to do something a bit different. Whereas the SHP has to gallop or it will be overlooked, the show pony today is generally expected to do no more than lengthen its stride. A good gallop however, done smoothly, can make the difference if you are on equal marks . Movement should be effortless and never rushed and once the show has finished, ponies should be able to stand for a count of three or so for a final salute ( subtle please). The show is not a dressage test. An inexperienced exhibitor with an average pony may be right in thinking their animal technically did 'a better show' but a good judge weighs everything up and if the more correct, more beautiful show pony , performed well enough, then it should win the day.


Manners are important as these ponies are ridden by children but they are not police horses and providing they do not boil over and misbehave, being on the edge is acceptable. It should also be remembered that this is a showing class and the overall picture counts. A well matched combination of pony and rider is the ideal; if your jockey is too big, the result is an imbalance and in these classes in particular , the picture counts for a lot and can be ruined.

The in- hand section is no less important and I am always struck how badly the vast majority of children stand up their ponies. It isn't difficult and the trick is to walk the animal smartly into a stand watching for the foreleg furthest from the judge to come down last. Instead animals are dragged into a bad stand and are then pulled forwards and backwards which means the result is distorted. Although a good stand is not going to disguise conformation faults, it can make a big difference to the overall impression when the judge turns round to look at the animal stripped for the first time.

After many years at social occasions trying to explain to someone who isn't horsey what a show pony is I have learned that the best illustration is to give them a human equivalent .If a show pony was a person I say, think of a star such as Audrey Hepburn or Rudolf Nureyev; the perfect combination of beauty, elegance, style and charisma. For those of us who know, they are simply exquisite and when performing at their best , have to be seen to be believed.

Show Hunter Pony
Written by David J Machin

Show hunter ponies come in all shapes and sizes and within each class you will find light weight, middle weight and heavy weight ponies as you do in the horse classes, but unfortunately, in the pony world don't have the luxury of separate weight classes, just height classes. However, as long as the judge chooses a pony of true Hunter type, be it heavy, middle or light weight there will never be a problem. What I try to avoid is a fat or overweight show pony masquerading as a Hunter pony.

A true Hunter pony should have plenty of bone and substance. If I think that with a fancy brow band, it could be a show pony then it is in the wrong class and should be placed accordingly.

When the ponies come into the ring, I try to imagine them of a size where I could ride them, and I look to see if they are giving their young jockeys a good ride. I usually find my winner when they enter the ring, the one full of quality and presence, with a walk that is long, free and swinging and with his ears cocked forward and looking where it is going. There is nothing more tiring than riding a horse that cannot walk; you end up trotting all the time because the walk is going nowhere. You usually find that the pony that walks the best is also a good galloper and is usually a comfortable ride. I often say to myself that I would like to sit on that one!

When asked to trot on I like to see the action long low and level but not daisy cutting as for the show ponies, or landing with their heel down first. We judges don't like too much knee action as this can make for an uncomfortable ride. When cantering, the pony should never look in a hurry, each stride should be long and covering as much ground as possible (but not sharp, he should look relaxed at all times, but not boring).

A true Hunter Pony should have plenty of bone and substance

David J Machin


Galloping is an essential part of the Show Hunter pony show. The pony should lower and lengthen. I like to see the ponies start to wind up round the first corner increasing in speed as they extend along the long side in order to be at their best as they come past me, then gradually slowing back down to canter. I hate to see the ponies held up until they are almost in front of me, and then the rider let extend and scramble from an almost from a standing start! This only results in the ponies anticipating and becoming hotter and hotter.

When it comes to stripping the ponies (taking their saddles off), I always like to start at the head. I look for a big, bold, dark eye with ears not too big or too small, a stronger type of head than in the show pony classes, but never common or coarse. I love to see a pony with plenty of front, with a big sloping shoulder and a neck with a good top line, not U-shaped or swan necked. I sometimes say they look like a seahorse, a good wither, with somewhere to put the saddle, strong and deep through the girth and deep behind the saddle, not herring gutted. The hind quarters should be strong , big and round , this part of the assessment should only take a few seconds. I like to spend more time looking at their limbs and feet, the front legs should have a good forearm with a big flat knee close to the ground with no hint of back at the knee. Slightly over at the knee is more acceptable than back at the knee. When viewed from the front, the knees should not be off-set – again a serious weakness. The cannon bones should be short and should be strong enough to carry the animal.

The hind legs should have a good, strong thigh and a second thigh leading down to strong hocks, close to the ground with no hint of sickle or curbs. The fetlocks and the pasterns should be clean with no signs of wear and tear i.e. windgalls etc, and the slope of the pasterns should be the same as the hoof, keeping the pony in balance.

The last thing I do when assessing conformation is to stand behind the pony and look for any signs of dropped hips. The line over it's quarters should be perfectly symmetrical. I like to see their tails well pulled and cut off short, level with their hocks. When walking away from you, the pony must move straight and true, no dishing or plaiting. The whole picture should be workmanlike, but still full of quality with no signs of commonness.

All that I have said goes for all the Hunter Pony classes except the lead reins, who don't have to canter but should still be true to type.

I get an awful lot of pleasure judging these classes, but the most important thing to me is to say to myself "Is it a Hunter?"

The Intermediate Show Riding Type
Written by Mrs Jamie Mead

When these classes first appeared , any invitation to judge them almost made your heart sink.

The ring would be filled with a great many animals of no particular description ,ridden like first ridden ponies, and not very well at that. A judge once told me that in the early days, instead of looking for the best, he did his hardest to find the 'least worst'. The riders too took a few years to appreciate they needed to 'up their game' and technique. When judging a HOYS qualifier some years ago, I deliberately asked competitors to trot up a deceptive hill before striking into canter on the corner; five of the first six struck off on the wrong leg, all basic jockey error and the line up changed radically.

The very sensible idea behind the creation of the intermediate was to have classes which would introduce the children, fresh out of 148cms to the more demanding arena of the hack, riding horse and hunter classes. Over the following years, there has been outstanding progress and the classes are one of the most successful innovations of the BSPS. The standard of riding has improved beyond all measure with the young adult competitors going on to challenge the best of the horse world and beat them on a level playing field even whilst still eligible for several more years in these juvenile classes. Crucially, the horses are now of a type . Top ISRT win supreme honours in the show horse world outside the BSPS and their young riders are not at a disadvantage. One of the most pleasurable judging experiences I've had was judging Intermediates at the RIHS a few years ago, where the cream of the crop came before us and had the room and setting to perform.

Judges of Intermediate Show Riding Types expect animals of quality which have elegance and presence and like the show pony, they need to move and have presence . When in a championship with their Show Hunter Type rivals, the difference should be blindingly obvious, not only in terms of substance and bone, but also in their way of going. Unlike the hack and riding horse classes, the horses are not ridden so it is important that judges are competent enough to KNOW what is giving a good, smooth, effortless ride. Apart from being graceful in their way of going, these animals need to be mannerly and any lapses will be penalised. Action must be long and low with good cadence and the overall impression must be one of balance and rhythm. Ideally a beautiful head with a bold eye would complement an impressive front with a decent length of rein , sloping shoulder and good depth. A strong forearm on a clean limb and a good hind leg should complete the wish list ; once these are all ticked off ( and there will be compromises) all they have to do is ' go' .

The standard of the classes is generally so good that the individual show can be the real ' deal breaker or maker'. It is very disheartening to judge a huge class and struggle to give a generous show mark simply because animal after animal walks out of the line and doesn't perform. The riders should have been in the business long enough to know what they're doing and be prepared to ' go for it' . It is not acceptable to come out and give a 148cms show of a figure of eight and an extension on the long side. Whereas the gallop should be possibly the most impressive aspect of the ISHT performance, the ISRT should excel in the classical elements of its show. More sophisticated movements such as serpentines and walk to canter should be included ; if the combination can perform a good, classic rein-back, so much the better but if not, definitely leave it out . Done well a rein-back shows competence in the rider and obedience in the horse, done badly ( as most are) it only highlights a lack of both.

Judges of Intermediate Show Riding Types expect animals of quality which have elegance and presence and like the show pony, they need to move and have presence

Mrs Jamie Mead

Whilst on the subject of manners, one of my pet hates is nappiness. Temperament is important, especially when young riders are undergoing the transition to bigger horses; an animal that is stubborn and disobedient when asked to do something fairly simple is painful both in the ring and at home. Ditto not standing in line, something more common in intermediates than in the pony classes for some reason. A judge concentrating on the shows out front may not be in a position to notice what is going on behind but if they do, and the animal is persistent, it may well be asked to leave the ring.

The championship, when both ISRT classes come together with the ISHT is generally one of the most interesting to judge as it is of course more like a supreme. It is here one can see the essential differences in type between the two and the riders have to redouble their efforts to beat the competition.

A great deal is owed to these classes. Without them, many people would have given up showing altogether when they found that the horse classes were a different ball game to the ponies . Young adults can enjoy a few more years of less pressurised competition before taking on the established show horse aristocracy and they can 'get their eye in'. Today the standard of animals forward is impressive, the classes are full and the riders supremely competent. From the judge's point of view, the whole experience is diametrically opposed from the way it was in those early years; the invitation welcomed and the classes a pleasure.


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