As sad as it may seem, I have just read through my January wish list – as published in this newspaper – only to find out that none of the wishes I made have come to pass so far.

Having said that, some of my predictions are well on their way to becoming a reality, the major among those is regarding welfare and weight, which currently seems to be high on the agenda, along with distances travelled to compete.

I was somewhat gratified that so many readers felt sufficiently aligned to my views on over-weight equines in last month’s column that they aired their own view on The SF social media platform.

Only time will tell whether or not they agree with this week’s view, which controversially returns to the issue of riders, who are too heavy for their mounts be it horse or pony.

However, before anyone starts a rant about any prejudice that I may appear to have against those riders who are deemed to be clinically over-weight, or even obese in some cases, from the outset let me begin by stating that, in my view, their weight issue remains the province of themselves, doctors, dietitians and politicians who literally have the state of the nation at heart. It certainly doesn’t concern me in terms of equine welfare.

From Shetland pony to Clydesdale horse, in Britain we are lucky to have a breed or type of equine to suit every rider whatever his/her weight might happen to be.

There should be no welfare issue regarding rider weight. However, reality dawns when a rider chooses a mount which is not built to take his/her weight while carrying out the tasks it is asked to perform.

Let’s face it, a Highland pony can carry a hefty stag off the hill at walk but the same pony would be hard pushed if asked to canter serpentines, or gallop with the stag up top. An extreme example this may be, but you get my drift.

The current science, which is limited by any stretch of the imagination, is leading with a 20% ratio rule for the weight of rider and tack against that of the pony/horse. I suspect this ratio may be on the generous side, however it is the one which the council of the Great Yorkshire Show continues to implement through its vets and stewards who oversee the collecting rings.

Commonly and ungraciously referred to as the ‘fat police’ by exhibitors, their task is an unenviable one which shouldn’t be necessary three years on from its inception. This is one organisation which means business and stands out among others as placing equine welfare before exhibitor popularity.

While I applaud their actions, I’m not convinced about the 20% rule since there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to win me over. Hopefully, there will be a greater insight into the ratio issue in the near future.

On the other hand, I do have to question what motivates riders whose size (and not necessarily weight) is not in proportion to their mounts, ponies in particular.

Is it a lack of confidence in their own ability to ride something bigger? Could it be a need to dominate a lively ride when performance places high demands on results? Is there any chance that they are in denial and actually think they are the right size and no-one is prepared to tell them otherwise? Ultimately, could they simply be selfish and ride anything to gain a prize?

I don’t have the answers, however, it is an issue that isn’t going to go away. There is a reality that people in general don’t like seeing adults, young or old, ride small ponies for whatever reason and rightly or wrongly they will make welfare the argument to get this stopped.

Again, judges have it in their power to send out the message to inappropriately mounted riders that they will keep them out of the rosettes under their watch in exactly the same way as they will not reward overly fat ponies. There are a few of us who are sufficiently committed to the cause to do this and the message will soon go round – but is it loud enough?

While judges have the power to react within the ring, it is outside of the ring which causes most controversy – especially in the eyes of the public. The infamous ‘working in’ of children’s ponies by adults prior to a class is not a new issue, although it does seem to be more common place now than not too many years ago.

Again, it is the picture of an adult towering over small ponies, lead reins and first ridden ponies in particular, which raises the hackles and has to be the very worst public relations exercise for the showing world.

‘Working in’ larger ponies into apparent submission by endless circuits of the collecting ring creates another negative reaction from onlookers as it appears to push exercise to an extreme.

Is this down to breeding? Could it be the way these ponies are managed? Do the riders ever see the pony outwith the show ring and has the standard of riding deteriorated in recent years?

Yet again, I don’t know the answers, however I have to reflect on what I see elsewhere to come to some conclusion.

Do I see adults riding in ponies at small local shows? Do I see adults riding in show jumping ponies with the rider standing by the collecting ring ropes? Do I see dressage ponies being ‘set up’ for their young riders by adults prior to a test then popped on at the last minute? The answer to all of these is a simple, ‘No, I don’t.’

This doesn’t mean to say that adults never school ponies for their young riders. However, what it does say is that they don’t do it in public view – it’s all done at home.

Therein lies the remedy for the showing fraternity if they wish this welfare issue to be taken off the table. If work at home doesn’t solve the problem, it’s a case of change the pony to suit the rider, change how the pony is managed or provide both education and experience for the rider so that they are able to cope with competition whatever it happens to be.

Last but not least, I notice that the National Pony Society is the first of the showing bodies to issue a statement on the welfare issue surrounding transport, which reads: “The NPS is becoming increasingly concerned that ponies are being travelled excessive distances on a regular basis in pursuit of qualifiers, it has been noted that the same ponies are being exhibited at shows throughout the length of the country.

“Members are reminded that this is a welfare issue and are asked to seriously consider limiting the number of shows attended with the same ponies.”

I’m not sure how this can be assessed, or policed but agree that it’s an issue worth flagging up. Again, there is a desperation to qualify ponies for the Horse of the Year Show which impacts on owners and consequently professionals of whom there seems to be a great number these days.

Ironically, they all seem to have good, well-equipped vehicles for the job and the few of their charges come off the lorry without a plethora of rugs, hoods and leg pads. The physical care side quite rightly goes unquestioned, however the high mileage required to qualify must come into question.

For example, by the time some ponies had arrived at the Royal Highland this year, within a five-day period some had been to Cheshire, Lincoln and Hickstead shows in a bid to claim their HOYS ticket.

Surely that can’t be right, but where’s the evidence to say there has been a welfare issue, especially when the ponies arrive in the ring looking as fresh as paint? It’s a hard one – but watch this space.