Meet the Junior Mountain and Moorland Conformation Judge

Russell Sutcliffe is by now a name synonymous with mountain and moorlands in showing circles. But it seems it wasn’t always so…

“I was always interested in show jumping and hunter trials and my wife Pamela had a Fell pony; this is where it all started.

“Her Fell was a complete allrounder and would hack, drive and take part in performance trials. I went to an auction one day and bought a three-year old colt. We traced his breeding as he came with no papers and learnt that he was Whitburn Major Tom.

“We showed him and he competed at Olympia twice – once with Pamela and once with me. We did WHP on him too and he was second at HOYS.

“The decision was made to start breeding so we bought two mares and Darrenvale stud was born in 1989. Some major prizewinners include Darrenvale Delilah (Heskett Willow x Midtown Jury) who won the Highland, Fell, Dales class at HOYS in 2006 and Darrenvale Jason who was Reserve Supreme at Olympia twice (Whitburn Major Tom x Townend Mountain Gypsy).”

What will Russell be looking for in a Junior Mountain and Moorland Pony of the Year?

“Firstly, I want to see a pony that looks like it could live where it is meant to live. By that, I mean one that has the best characteristics to survive in its native environment.

“It must have decent conformation and for me, the junior mountain and moorland is almost like the intermediates in the fact that the class forms a steppingstone for jockeys – in this case between the first riddens and the open ponies.

“For me, you don’t need a big powerful stride on a junior pony. I don’t want to see them head strong and I err on the side of quality in conformation. Flat bone, clean hocks and round open feet are all factors I will be looking for.

“I want to see a pony where the rider sits in the middle. I’m looking for balance – a beautiful back end as well as a decent front. Maturity can alter a pony but the basic fact of having that balance in conformation doesn’t change. Balance is so important, and the conformation of a pony needs to allow it to be balanced.

“If a pony doesn’t have an engine behind it will have a lower head carriage and be on the forehand. When I look at a pony stood in front of me I want to see something that I know will travel with self -carriage.

“A pony must have character – that certain ‘joie de vivre’ must be there. Natives can be so overdone in their schooling that they appear robotic and in certain breeds this can cause problems with limbs.

“I am really looking forward to judging this class with my co-judge Jacqueline Webb.”

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