Meet the Judges: Ridden Mountain and Moorland Pony of the Year

Got a mountain and moorland pony off to HOYS this year? Both judges, Tweetie Nimmo and Jo Jack will be making the journey south from Scotland to judge the finals held at the NEC next Wednesday and Thursday. Both are well known on the native circuit, but here’s a little more information on both and what they will be looking for…

First up, the ride judge, Tweetie Nimmo.

Tweetie judged the Welsh section Bs at the Royal Welsh in 2019

Tweetie has had a life-long and broad involvement in horses, and has been breeding Welsh section B and part-bred ponies for approximately 45 years. When she married in 1979, she registered the prefix ‘Duntarvie’ which she has continued to use. The ponies Duntarvie have gained notable success for Tweetie over the years.  Highlights include wins at the Royal Welsh show, with Duntarvie Catamount standing champion part-bred Welsh three times, and Duntarvie Catburglar later took the same accolade. Both ponies also qualified for the Cuddy supreme in-hand final – now the Price Family Supreme – at HOYS. Having a broad interest in horses and ponies, she is on the WPCS, NPS, BSPS, BSHA, SHB GB and CPS panels, and has been judging for about 40 years. Tweetie has judged many of our biggest shows across the country, including Olympia twice, and the Royal Welsh Agricultural show four times. She’s also judged all over the world, from Australia and South Africa to America and several European countries. Although we are all familiar with seeing Tweetie at the HOYS ring in her official capacity with the NPS, this will be the first time that Tweetie has the honour of presiding over the classes.

What will Tweetie be looking for?

Tweetie is adamant that although she keeps Welsh ponies, her interest in native ponies goes beyond that, and she “likes all native breeds”. Consequently, she is completely “open minded”, and will want a pony to catch her eye. As it’s a short time allocated for each show, Tweetie wants to see “riders using all of the limited space available to show off their pony” as well as they can. She will be looking for an “accurate, well-executed show that is mannerly with the pony going on the correct bend”. Finally, for Tweetie, each pony’s way of going should be “ground-covering in keeping with the breed’ description”.

Of course, Tweetie will hold only 50% of the marks, and the rest – the conformation marks – will be down to Jo Jack…

Jo is familiar with the HOYS ring from a competitor’s perspective, but it will be the first time she will see it from the judge’s point of view

Jo has been involved with ponies since aged eight, and was introduced to native ponies and in particular, Highland ponies in 1981. “They were kept next to a Scout centre where Dad went with my three brothers,” she explained. “The owners were looking for someone to ride their highlands and I was 16 at the time. Rona of Dalbrack was the first Highland mare I backed and schooled on myself. In 1986, she won the Royal Highland Show with me and qualified for Olympia. Another I rode was her half-brother Dunedin Harris, the last foal by Heamish of Dalbrack. I won Olympia and the working hunter at HOYS on him, the only Highland to have done both!”

Testament to their true versatility, both these ponies were “real all-rounders, competing in dressage, at PC and jumping,” too. Jo said her “claim to fame” was being part of the winning riding club quadrille team at Olympia in 1993. They were the first team of native ponies and all Highlands.

She bred her first Highland in 1994, and though she states she knows she is often perceived as a professional producer, she is adamant “I really only ride for friends as fun”.

Jo has judged on the Highland Pony Society ridden panel since 1989 before progressing to the full panel and the NPS panel. Though she has judged the workers at the RIHS, judged at the Royal Highland Show, Royal Welsh, the Highlands at Royal Windsor – “a real honour” – and the NI finals, this will be her first time judging at HOYS.

What will Jo be looking for?

You hope that the best ponies have qualified and that they are excellent examples of their breed. I want them to be typey and to have real pony characteristics. Good conformation should allow them to perform correctly and vice versa.”

Clean limbs, a good walk and straight movement will also be important, and they will need to “look through the bridle and be active, I’ll be looking for something that has that special ‘glow’ about it,” she said.

“I am confident that my co-judge will reward a good way of going. I’m really looking forward to it; I’ve gone through all emotions, been scared and nervous but now just excited.”

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