Show judges gradually recognising horses in best condition

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Val Sheehan and Red Rumour at Herts County Show at Hickstead.
Val Sheehan and Red Rumour at Herts County Show at Hickstead. © The Horse Trust

A well-known British show horse producer says that judges need to be educated regarding the ideal weight of horses, but things are slowly changing in the industry.

Val Sheehan’s 6 year old Heavyweight Hunter Red Rumour won a Healthy Body Condition Award at Hickstead recently at the Herts County Show. The awards, an initiative of The Horse Trust, are being ramped up with many shows signing up to be ‘Weight-Aware’. The coveted awards recognise and reward horses in the best condition as well as providing support and advice.

Sheehan said he had not heard of the awards before winning, but agreed enthusiastically with the concept. While he acknowledges that “you can’t feed to build fitness”, all his horses go out and get lots of exercise, and are fed for the work done. His observations regarding showing were that more education was needed for judges, but it can be seen that things are slowly changing.

The British Equine Veterinary Association considers equine obesity to be one of the highest-ranking health risks today.

At another recent show, the Derby Meeting at Hickstead from June 23 to 26, the Sussex Equine Hospital supported and carried out the assessments alongside the Showing Judges.

Lynn Russell, a leading Show Cob producer, came a very close second with Talos for the award, having previously received it at Herts County Show in May. She said horses generally should carry less condition. “Some of the Judges may need some adjustment on how they take this into account when judging.”

Legend in Manhattan exhibited by a delighted Victoria Hersford, and owned by James Woodington, won the Best Condition rosette in Hickstead's Large Riding Horse Class, in which he finished second.
Legend in Manhattan exhibited by a delighted Victoria Hersford, and owned by James Woodington, won the Best Condition rosette in Hickstead’s Large Riding Horse Class, in which he finished second. © Spidge Photography

Russell said she kept the horses out 24/7 and harrowed their fields regularly “They seem to regulate their intake of forage and consequently their condition. For feeding, I use straights, rather than mixes and cubes – they’re looking fabulous on it.”

Dream on Harry and Siobhan Dalloway.
Dream on Harry and Siobhan Dalloway. © Spidge Photography

Dream on Harry, owned and exhibited by Siobhan Dalloway, won the award in the Maxi Cob class and was delighted by the recognition. “Harry was a rescue case from Ireland, taking nine months to get fit for today. We let him be a horse and have a natural lifestyle with regular exercise to keep him in good condition.”

Bankers Draught and Hannah Horton.
Bankers Draught and Hannah Horton. © Spidge Photography

In the Lightweight Cobs, Bankers Draught won the award, with a body condition score that was 30% better than the top placed horses in the class. Bankers Draught, known at home as Todd, was exhibited by Hannah Horton. Todd goes hunting all winter which keeps him very fit and in great condition.

Kate Barber-Lomax and Master of the House.
Kate Barber-Lomax and Master of the House. © Spidge Photography

Master of the House, or Big Tom, won on a score of almost 20% better than the others in the Heavyweight Cob Class. Ridden and owned by Kate Barber-Lomax, Kate’s mother does the day-to-day care and overseeing Big Tom’s four days a week exercise regime. They were thrilled to be placed second in the Class and first for the Healthiest Body Condition.

“Tom is a bit of a character and likes to gallop up to horses on the horse-walker, then halt at the very last minute thus spooking them somewhat,” Barber-Lomax said.

“He’s now 16 and has had a successful showing career and it looks like he’ll continue to do so. He’s pretty good at regulating his own weight in that he isn’t greedy – in fact he gets four small feeds a day whilst at grass.”

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