Unraveling the mystery of Lead Rein Classes at A&P Shows and Ribbon Days.
Do you have a pony mad youngster who is 4 years or older and up to 7yrs and wanting to “go to a show” perhaps with older brother or sister, but cannot yet ride safely in the Open Rings ? Then the Lead Rein classes are just the place for them. This class of competition began in the UK many years ago and gradually found it’s way here to NZ, both as an outlet for that pony mad small child and for breeders of small ponies, most notably the Welsh Section A pony and small Welsh partbreds and Riding Ponies under 128cm. The rules and guidelines have been formalised over several years and now can be found in the NZ Royal Agricultural Society’s Rule Book, an essential tool for competitors and judges alike.
The class is for children, as yet not able to 'go it alone’ in the show ring but able to walk and trot and guide a small pony over a small course, usually a circle, a change of rein in walk and trot and a halt. The handler is there purely as a safety line and SHOULD have no effect on the pony ie. no halting or turning, the small rider being in control.
The lead rein is attached to the noseband of the bridle, the handler walks on the pony’s near (left) side , the lead rein held loose, (a loop from handler’s hand to noseband signals this to the judge) in their left hand, and the right arm should hang by their side, not touching the rider or pony but ready to assist (by grabbing leg of rider) if the pony makes a sudden startled move or sidestep. The pony should not be judged on conformation alone but at a greater percentage on manners and suitability for a small rider, thus a small pony with gargantuan girth size would not be suitable, or an elegant pony but with excessively elevated paces (thus thrusting the small rider out of the saddle with each step) also not suitable. The handler should be neatly dressed in either riding gear or smart street clothes, with sensible footwear( as they have to run), gloves, and hat. The “over the top outfits” that handlers are appearing in now ( in this class at higher levels such as HOY, or Royals) are more suited to the Queen's Garden Party or weddings and does no justice to this delightful class. Some parents like to coordinate their colours, to complement the riders outfit, and good, clean and above all safe and well fitting saddlery is all that is required, not expensive turnout saddles and overdone amounts of Bling, which one handler said to the writer (An RAS judge) is a must to win.
So all you mums and dads with that very keen young rider, who fits the above category, do give them the thrill and experience of competing at your local show, several A&P Societies have classes in their schedule, some smaller shows even are holding the classes under ‘local rules’ (thus making the winners ineligible to use a win at that show as a qualifying win for HOY) but allowing a wider range of competitors with a suitable pony with good manners and paces but not always with the best conformation to compete.