I doubt if I’m the only person who left Braco Show with that warm glow that comes about as tradition, familiarity, and enjoyment combine at a small rural agricultural show.

For those of you who have never experienced such an event (and I dare say that there are some) or haven’t attended one for some time, I’d thoroughly recommend the experience for it’s the kind of tonic we so badly need in our complex, high-tech world.

There was a warm welcome from the local farming community, a total lack of pretentiousness across the field, and a basic understanding of the simple things to which people respond as well as enjoy. Adding to this competition at all levels, the organisers should be proud of their efforts to provide a great day out for exhibitors and visitors alike.

Full marks to the Light Horse committee members who resurrected classes to this year’s schedule much to the delight of local and regular exhibitors, who missed out in 2022 when light horses were absent from the schedule. Short of volunteers last year, a useful model has evolved as members of the Doune and Dunblane equivalent committee joined forces on the day in a reciprocal arrangement that seems to work.

I see something similar developing informally between the (East) Fife and West Fife Shows light horse sections and no doubt others can identify something similar in their own local areas. Along with a small group of individuals who seem to regularly turn up at many events to help out, taking the lead at one show and committing to help out at another may be a way ahead to ensure the future of our agricultural shows.

As a visitor myself this year, I felt an intense sense of nostalgia as the Lodge Park Braco was the venue for one of my earliest shows as a competitor in 1972. Some basic elements have remained intact - the sound of bagpipes in the background, the sweet smell of the freshly mowed turf, the neat main ring with its economy-sized rings, the ringside commentator, who did a good job during the day to keep everyone up-to-date, very reminiscent of the incomparable Ben Coutts, whose knowledge of exhibitors and exhibits was unique.

Then there was the hospitality tent - agricultural shows know how to offer a welcome to judges and officials alike. When offered what I’d like to drink by the most friendly hostess imaginable, I had to explain my explosion of laughter. As a judge at Braco some thirty-plus years ago, I was asked exactly the same question however there was no marquee with its ample supply of tea, coffee, scones, and cakes. Instead, there was a sheep trailer that revealed benches and a wooden trestle table heavily laden with bottles of whiskey that had been handed in that morning. Freshly used glasses were quickly rinsed in a bucket of water under the table and, despite the early hour, many of the officials took advantage of the offer of a wee dram. I wasn’t one of them and a cup of tea was sourced from somewhere.

I think that, like others, I’m starting to embrace the modern showing experience and trying my best to stop lamenting the lack of high-level competition at a local level. The Royal Highland proved that it it is still alive and well particularly among the ridden native classes. During the 1970s, interest in equestrian competition blossomed rapidly with participation and standards operating at new levels for so many new to the sport. For whatever reasons, times have changed, and shows like Braco have had to adjust by recognising the worth of the enthusiastic support of those operating at a comfortable level where participation means more than the physical reward of a rosette - although everyone likes a rosette.

In difficult financial times, they also like value for money and Braco delivered this in spades to its exhibitors. With a membership of £10, First Aid cover at £2, an entry fee of £5 (£7.50 for a late entry), prize money set at £10, £6, and £4, and three free entry tickets provided good value for money by any standards. It’s something for other shows need to consider as a way forward. Then there are the available classes - plenty of unaffiliated offerings for the ‘new’ competitor: I was taken by the turn-out class which embraced both in hand and ridden, the lead rein class for 12-year-olds and under, and the ‘Ridden Bus Pass’ class for the combined age of 60 for rider and mount - who thought up that one? Noticeably but understandably due to its cost of staging and the number of personnel involved, the famous hill-side working hunter course had gone but registered native pony classes hadn’t with some good entries forward on the day.

Hot on the heels of my 'Braco' experience I found myself once more retracing my early footsteps when I returned to Turriff Show on the last day of July; much to my relief, little had changed over the forty-year period at this most charismatic of agricultural shows. With its enormous holiday appeal and large attendances over its two days, it is little wonder that it boasts to be the biggest two-day show in Scotland and second only to the Royal Highland. In its own way, it is every bit as compact as Braco with eight sections squeezed into the main ring made possible by its unique wedge-shaped rings. The fact that there isn't room to swing a cat hasn't changed and doesn't seem to deter the enthusiasm of the northern competitors, whose inconvenience is more than compensated by the handsome prize money on offer – the best in Scotland without a doubt.

I'm sure the prize money attracted us to the show in our early days along with the complimentary cup of tea and bacon roll which met exhibitors on arrival. Far-travelled judges often appear at Turriff and in the early 1980s one from mid-Wales obviously suited our Welsh mountain stallion, who trotted off with the supreme championship, a bucket load of rosettes, a sash, and an envelope full of money. We enjoyed success again a few years later when we showed the supreme for local exhibitor, Mary Downie, whose Kingsford prefixed horses and ponies were well known. This year I returned as a judge just as I had done on several previous occasions.

Despite its size and operational demands over two days, the hospitality afforded to the judges couldn't have been better with the appropriately kilted Chairman and Vice Chairman offering a personal welcome to Turriff Show. The show also boasts an immaculate and well-appointed judges and stewards reception area with its ring-side views and copious offerings of refreshments of all descriptions during the day. It speaks volumes for the pride the office-bearers take in their hospitality that I even noticed the Chairman's wife bring out the vacuum cleaner mid-morning. I think that says it all.

As if two shows weren’t enough, my third and final exposure to my old showing haunts came at Perth Show last weekend, almost unrecognisable at its relatively new site on the South Inch across the road from Perth Prison as opposed to alongside it. There is so much space now and just as well as this year’s show bucked the trend by receiving good entries across the board. When I left at six o’clock, the unaffiliated classes were still going strong. There seemed to be ample lorry parking with good-sized rings confined by barriers with not a post or rope in sight much to the relief of the Health & Safety officer.

How the classification has changed. In the past, along with Turriff, Perth Show had show pony qualifiers for the Horse of the Year Show, a good-ridden hunter class, and an extensive section for Arabs, Anglos, and Part-bred. Nowadays the native ponies fill the rings.

Having reached a certain age that assumes much-gathered wisdom, supreme championships seem to be coming my way with some frequency. As my ‘turn’ came towards the end of the show day, I had plenty of time for lunch and I have to say the steak pie was delicious. It was an opportune time that my steward should introduce himself to me. With introductions over, this middle-aged gentleman took great joy in reminding me of the days when I went to Perth Pony Club camp to judge whatever was happening at the time and that I had placed him first over his rivals, much to his delight and all the lovely wee lasses whose attention he desired. Needless to say, that started a long journey down memory lane, which I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed. Perth put on a great show and came as a perfect end to this trilogy.

With the recent positive experiences of Scottish shows under my belt, I didn’t look forward to the long drive south to Malvern (Worcestershire), where I judged big classes of top-end exhibits only to be followed afterward by a long drive home. My days of travelling long distances to judge prestige classes have definitely lost their appeal at a time when staying local increases. However common to shows far and wide is often the lack of a show schedule, which previously either dropped through the letter box after an invitation to judge or arrived with passes. While it may be a modern trend to access schedules via the Internet, my own recent experience, backed up by other judges on the day, has shown that this is not always easy or reliable. For show organisers and show secretaries be they local or otherwise, on a simple need-to-know basis, please accept this appeal for paper copies from your judges.