Meet The Judge

Coloured and Hack hopefuls, read on…

Polly Mallender will be assessing the ride in the CHAPS Coloured Horse or Pony of the Year section alongside conformation judge Mathew Lawrence, who will also be assessing the Hack of the Year hopefuls.

Polly was born into a family of equestrians. “Dad is a farrier and he and Mum used to do a lots of breaking, dealing and breeding,” she explained. Nevertheless, Polly explained that she has always “had ‘non-horsey’ jobs with horses being a hobby.” She currently works as a Curriculum Manager at Landmarks Specialist College.

As a youngster, Polly enjoyed Pony Club, hunting and the local riding club, and usually had young ponies to bring on. She explained: “I fell lucky with my two 148cm ponies, Merriment William and Simply Charlie. I had them both from four-year-olds and we progressed up the ranks, with Charlie and myself competing at HOYS in the Newcomer final.” 

Show jumping formed the next decade’s passion, and Polly enjoyed success in the Young Rider classes, as well as producing a number of youngsters.

Nowadays, Polly is a hunting fan and has earned her collar and hunt buttons with the Readyfield Bloodhounds. She also rides side-saddle: “I have even had many a fun day following hounds aside. My Irish Draft (Sir Pancake) and I were second in the Diana’s of the Chase side-saddle race, which is still one of my top life events!”

As well as showjumping and hunting, Polly has enjoyed a number of disciplines from British Eventing and dressage to workers, flat showing and side-saddle “and many others,” she laughed. “I think that this range of experiences has helped me to become a well-rounded horse woman”.

Her judging experience began first of all as a steward. “I started stewarding in my late teens and gained so much knowledge and insight into the world of judging. All the judges who had me as their steward were always happy to explain their thinking to me. I am grateful to those judges who took the time to share their experiences with me. It was a great foundation to my judging career.” 

She became a panel judge “as soon as I was old enough to attend the assessment days. I learned a great deal about conformation and way of going from my Mum and Dad, it really helped me come assessment day.

“I’ve been lucky enough to judge at some great places including Ireland, The Isle of Man, Jersey, Gurnsey, Wales and lots of superb shows in England.” 

What is Polly looking for?

“As a ride judge, I want a supple, balanced and responsive ride, which way of going is paired with its type; I expect a hack to be light, agile and elegant while a hunter will be eager to get on with the job. I would rather an animal be a bit too keen that a bit too flat!” Taller exhibitors that don’t know Polly be warned: “I’ve got short legs, so exhibitors need to make sure their stirrups go short enough!”

And in the pony classes? “In the pony ranks I want a balanced and chipper animal which is rhythmical and again goes in a way which is expectant of type; I don’t want a class of ‘robots’ with a fixed heads and no pizazz. 

“Across all four sections I will be looking for manners, a typely way of going and for the animal which says, ‘I’m here, look at me.’

“I’m a traditionalist when it comes to bitting, I want to see exhibits in a simple pelham or a standard double bridle with a simple snaffle bridoon.

“I am incredibly privileged to be asked to judge at HOYS. It’s such an honour to be a part of The World’s Greatest Horse Show and I can’t wait for October!”

Mathew Lawrence is a distinguished producer, show rider and sought-after instructor. Based in Bristol, Mathew is no stranger to winning on the highest stage, with several championships at HOYS and the RIHS, and three Olympia championships. He is arguably better known for his mountain and moorland charges, but he has also successfully competed in several other sections including the coloured horse and pony classes. ELS Artform, Nabille Bertie Bassett and Maytime Challenge include three of his most prolific coloured charges, with each having bagged a HOYS class with the latter going on to stand reserve champion.

No longer producing, Mathew spends a considerable amount of time teaching others and has a dedicated pupil base as well as being an extremely popular figure at showing clinics.

But what will he be looking for in the coloured section?

“It’s an honour to be asked to judge at HOYS and especially having competed in these sections. It really is special!

“Even though I’m judging conformation for this class, I will be watching the go round. I’m looking for something to walk in with purpose with ears on and up and out in front – not down and in. It’s a show class and the horse or pony has to show you that they want to be there. My winner will need to be true to type and cover ground in its way of going. The traditional will be more workmanlike in their way of going and the riding horse needs to go and look like a riding horse.

“Once the saddle is off, conformation is paramount for me and again will be individual to the type that that horse or pony is.

The mechanics of a horse are so important. If a horse isn’t built correctly then it can’t go correctly, and I will be looking from the ground up.

Being the correct weight for its type is key. I want to see soft lines rather than heavy fat lines. I always feel that this is accentuated at HOYS due to where you are positioned as you can’t really stand back to look at the animal.

It’s my first-time judging conformation at HOYS and the structure of the horse or pony will be of highest importance for me.”

And in the hacks…?

“I’m honoured to judge this class. I can remember watching hacks as a teenager and going on to compete in them at HOYS was fabulous but to judge this class really is a dream come true for me.

“Elegance is key. Their way of going should be light and forward but never in a hurry. I want to see ears on and know at a glance that they want to be there.

“I want a hack to cover the ground but touch it lightly. A hack should be a suitable ride for a lady or a gentleman. I want to see a horse that is able to go to the contact but be soft over the back. For me, it is not all about the bling and a hack should demonstrate the epitome of way of going.

“My pet hate with a hack is one which is on its head and bearing down. A hack should be pushing itself along and not pulling itself.

“I’m really looking forward to judging this class with Vanessa as we tend to read from the same hymn sheet!”

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