Going Dutch ....................  

  Highfox Forever in Holland 2007

In July 2007 we were lucky enough to take part in the International New Forest Mare Show organised by the Dutch New Forest Stamboek (Stud Book), as part of celebrations to mark their Golden Jubilee. It was held at the Koninklijk Nederlandse Hippische Sportbond (KNHS) Ermelo, Holland. Originally we were to be part of a three pony team representing the GB New Forest Pony Society; Highfox Evensong, Dorridge Fifinella (Emma Collis) and Woodrow Delight’s Double (June Whitham). In June Evensong pulled a muscle and Highfox Forever took her place. By July none of the original three mares could go, leaving Forever as the only GB representative.

Getting organised to take a pony out of the country and the thought of travelling across the North Sea to the Hoek of Holland, was somewhat daunting on our own, but in the end we decided that the experience was too good to miss. The ferry crossing was uneventful and Forever settled on the boat like she’d been doing it all her life, the crew treating her more like a racehorse than a New Forest pony. The motorway system in Holland is fantastic. So sixteen hours after leaving Queensbury in Yorkshire, we were safely at Ermelo, settling in at KNHS.

The International Show was held on the Saturday afternoon, after the National Mare Show, so we had plenty of time to watch the in hand Dutch New Forest pony in action. This was a fascinating experience. The setting  and facilities were impressive, but the rings seemed very small. We soon discovered that this was because the ponies went into the ring one at a time, two people showing each one, a handler plus a helper whose job was to encourage the pony into an extravagant trot by running behind with a lunge whip and a rattle. The handlers all wore white shirts and trousers, which took some getting used to, but judging by the strange looks my tweed jacket and hunting cap received in the afternoon, our hosts and new friends thought my outfit was rather unusual too!

The classes were judged on a points system by three judges. A sheet of marks and comments for each pony was displayed after the class. The judges kept a distance, sometimes behind a table or a pole on the floor, when judging

We saw some beautiful ponies. They were presented with their manes plaited and completely trimmed out. There was a great variance in type. Most were big movers, showing their potential as Sports ponies. A number of small ponies did very well, which was really good to see.  

One Dutch bred, black mare really caught the eye, she had the most impressive fluid walk (we would have happily smuggled her back with us). We later learnt that she was a Crown mare (the highest accolade a mare can be given in Holland) and her daughter was working towards the same status. Proof that the ideal to which breeders in Holland and GB are aspiring, is not so very different.

The International Show was a great experience. The stand was full and ponies from Germany, Holland, Norway and Great Britain came forward to represent their countries. There were three judges, one from Sweden, one from Denmark and one from Scotland. Marks were awarded in three categories, for conformation, movement and type. Cards with the points awarded by each judge, were held up for the spectators to see, very like in an ice skating competition. The rings were combined to make one very large area, we paraded altogether and then re - entered the ring one at a time for judging.

We decided to show Forever as we would at home, because we thought the spectators would find this interesting. I looked very conspicuous in my British showing gear, all on my own, trotting out my hairy un-plaited pony. The steward asked if I needed help when I entered the ring, but I thought it wise to decline someone with a lunge whip and a rattle, as Forever would have been less than impressed!

Forever is a different type to most of the ponies we had seen in the National show, her mother is Forest bred and she is very much this stamp. Also has she had not been shown seriously in hand for a number of years, so we didn’t expect to figure in the championship prizes and were just honoured to take part.

To say that we were pleased when she received eights and nines for conformation is an understatement, but when she was awarded a ten for type, the only ten awarded throughout the National or International show, we were thrilled beyond belief. When all the ponies went back in the ring for the final prize giving we were delighted to receive championship rosettes, a plaque and an array of prizes (everything but the cuddly toy!) for the Best Type in Show, making a great experience even more memorable.

We are very grateful to everyone who made our trip to Holland possible; to the New Forest Breed Society for giving us the honour of representing them; to the Dutch Stamboek for organising a wonderful event; to June Whitham, Trudy Nineham and James Young for helping to sort out ferries, export licences and for moral support when it was needed the most; to all the people from across Europe who made us so welcome; to everyone who cheered us on back home and were so quick to say 'Well done' and of course to Forever for being a 'STAR' and providing us with yet another un-forgettable 'New Forest' experience.

Forever in the Prize Giving Ceremony - with Dutch friends and Norwegian New Forest ponies in the background!

A typical Yorkshire perspective on the event!

(C) Telegraph and Argus 2007