It's that time of year when stallions really come in to their own as they approach the breeding season and a real eyeful they make, regardless of the medium through which they are viewed.

Obviously, there's nothing like seeing them in the flesh but modern technology has really stepped up to the plate, especially at a time when restrictive Covid-19 regulations – as well as the weather – kept us all indoors.

The point was certainly made forcibly during the past two weeks when the Dutch Warmblood Society (KWPN) followed by the Dutch Welsh Pony and Cob Society (NWPCS) held their annual stallion gradings at the National Equestrian Centre, at Ermelo, in Holland.

Both events were available live via the Internet and streamed round the world free of charge on a small screen, but also available to the large screen through subscription.

The Dutch organisers certainly know how to put on a spectacle and this year proved no exception, despite the stringent Covid-19 regulations in place. Just as the case in Scotland, the staging of the event had to be approved by the local council and run under the strictest guidelines similar to those outlined by the Showing Council's 'blueprint' for shows in Britain.

There were no spectators whatsoever, two people allowed per entry, with a total of 30 people in attendance indoors for any purpose at the venue at any one time, other than those employed by the centre. There were no catering facilities on site and judges and stewards were supplied with individual lunch boxes and refreshments.

The three official judges of the jury (of which there are 15 in total within the NWPCS) were headed by interim jury chairman and well known breeder, Ben Platzer. They were separated by clear plastic screens and restricted to sitting at a table when, in previous years, they stood in the arena.

Officials and handlers also wore the obligatory masks, other than when running out stallions.

The two events have their own character but unified by the great enthusiasm which the knowledgeable audience has for the stallions presented for grading. The loud stamping and clapping for the favourites created a remarkable atmosphere and considerable excitement, the likes of which we don't witness in Britain other than at the Royal Welsh Show – the louder the appreciation, the more spectacularly the stallions react.

Needless to say, all of this was sorely missed this year with full length black curtains hiding empty seating areas although plenty of popular music broke the otherwise silent proceedings. As we have come to expect, the staging of both events was faultless, professionally organised and the rings tastefully dressed.

Piet Peters, chairman of the Dutch Welsh Pony and Cob Society (also a director of the KWPN) was particularly pleased with how things went, despite the difficulties along the way.

According to Mr Peters: "There was a very good group of stallions presented, with high quality stallions approved for the stud book in 2021."

Of the 114 stallions which came forward for approval, 39 went directly into the stud book, five (under the the Dutch Welsh Riding Pony register) were invited back for full approval after performance testing and 28 were given a 'Star' rating, not approved as yet but eligible to return for grading in the future. The remaining 42 were failed under the system.

Commenting on the event, he added: "The society (NWPCS) had a very difficult task organising the stallion show given the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 restrictions, however everyone was very compliant and the event went well.

"We went from organising an event hosting a large number of people, to one which became a new television programme for a world-wide audience all the while maintaining the integrity of the Stallion approval system."

It comes as no surprise that the membership was appreciative of efforts to stage this famous event, which was now into its 50th year. However, with more than 35,000 viewers from some 32 countries following it on line across the globe, it is no wonder that the response on a variety of social media platforms had been very positive.

In response to the question as to whether or not live streaming would be available in subsequent years, the chairman readily replied: "Having set up live streaming in 2021, there can be no turning back. This is a wonderful and essential marketing tool for Dutch ponies around the world."

The Dutch market – like those of other countries in continental Europe – is aimed at the performance animal, primarily for dressage and show jumping, with conformation accordingly geared towards the great athletic ability both disciplines demand at the very highest level.

Believe me, this is fundamentally different from the standards of conformation which are generally accepted as essential in Britain, especially the show ring, so it isn't surprising that some of the selections for approval are somewhat perplexing at times as are some of the rejections.

That doesn't mean to say the jury is in any way wrong, however I would love someone to explain why the straight-looking shoulder can produce such elevated and extended movement in front while hocks standing out behind can produce such activity and power behind. I'd love to know.

In terms of our native pony breeds, of which our four Welsh sections are obviously one, it does concern me a little that the sports' pony dimension has come to play an important part within the Dutch selection system.

While the breeders there have good reason to select using their own criteria driven by the market place, the purist within me worries that they could be changing the type of the Welsh breeds within their country.

Thankfully, there will always be a strong gene pool left on home turf which will always be available should enrichment of the original type be required at some stage. The Dutch are not alone in this respect, as other performance-led breeding programmes across the world are following suit and others among the traditional British native breeds have become subject to new-world demands.

Ending on a less philosophical note, I have to confess that following the Dutch stallion show on line was a welcome escape from shovelling snow, freezing temperatures and gloomy news headlines on Covid-19. It also beat the rigours of a plane journey to and from Schiphol Airport to attend the show, which I know from experience can be an ordeal in itself.

So I, for one, look forward to following this and other equestrian events in the future from the comfort of my home.