Trying to write and describe my time at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is always a bit of a nightmare. It goes past so fast and you kind of spend the entire time in a bubble but what I do really remember from this year is it certainly was two days of highs and extreme lows!

I managed to get the train straight from London to meet the team at HOYS who had already driven up on the Tuesday. Wednesday was Bam’s (Popsters Glamorize) day in the ring so I took her in the arena on Tuesday night to have a look around. Although it was her first time at HOYS she took everything in her stride in the working in area and I went to bed a very happy person.

Alongside Bam’s class which was early afternoon, Windy (Shilstone Rocks North Westerly) was also competing before her in the in-hand Cuddy supreme title. I went down to watch him go into the ring and wow, what a class. A mixture of the most beautiful ponies from M&M’s to riding ponies and sports ponies as well.

Windy

Windy

I only managed to see the first trot before I had to head back to get on Bam as her class was following. You can always tell with Bam if she is relaxed as she will take a polo when offered. If she is a bit stressed or tense no matter how much she wants the polo she won’t touch it. When we tacked her up in her stable she was happily munching on my polos so I had my fingers crossed she would be good!

windycuddy

Windy in the Cuddy

Heading down to the ring we met Windy who had just come out and scored an amazing third place! To be placed in the Cuddy is some achievement but to be top three is just brilliant. As Windy headed back to his stable Bam and I headed into the ring. Although I felt quite relaxed about it you can never tell how the pony will react when stepping into the atmosphere. It is very different from when you work in and some just find it too nerve wracking.

Luckily for me Bam yet again remained her focused self and didn’t look twice at anything. We stayed in to do our show first, which is the way I prefer it so I get the scariest bit over with first! We had a strong section of ponies and everything was going nicely so I just hoped Bam’s inexperience wouldn’t show her up. Thankfully she went out and did everything I asked in a nice relaxed manner, for her first time there I couldn’t have asked for more.

All I ever want to do at HOYS is get in the top 10, I mean obviously a win one day would be nice but for me reaching the top ten and hearing my number called makes my day. When they called Bam’s number I was so pleased for her first season to make the top ten in such a strong line up of ponies, I couldn’t have been more proud. It then got better when I ended up seventh in the class and very importantly she was top placed mare, an accolade I was extremely proud of. What a way to end our first season together.

The next day was the turn of Windy and Chief (Moelview Chieftain), again in the afternoon so I faced the long wait, with my mind considering all the things that could go wrong. Both ponies looked fab and Windy after his Cuddy adventure the day before seemed in a really happy mood.

Now in the four years I have had Windy he has never been the easiest and you need to get everything just right for him to really perform for you. At HOYS everything seemed to be going his way. I got to do my show first and had it all planned.

I know Windy so well now that as soon as I head off for my show I can tell if he was going to go, or if I might as well give up now! But at HOYS he went, he really went. As I came back after my gallop I was grinning ear from ear as we had done it, we had pulled off the show and then something happened. He tripped and he fell. It happened so quickly I don’t remember much bar the gasp of the crowd and my will to stay on. Luckily I dropped my reins and Windy managed to get to his feet but that was it in that one moment my dreams came crashing down.

I trotted a circle and finished my show to a huge round of applause, mainly for staying on I think! But then it hit me and boy, was I gutted. Of all the things to happen, that pony never trips. When I went out to do my in-hand I couldn’t help but cry, I felt so sad that I had let everyone down. Windy had tried so hard for me and in a split second any chance of a rosette in our final ride together had gone. Poor Windy had fallen over so badly he even had sand on his nose. Thankfully he was fine but the judge had already told me she had deducted a large amount of marks so I knew mine and Windy’s dreams of making the top 10 where over.

Gutted as I was I had to pull myself together to face my last ride on Chief as well. Chief really is a one in a million pony and I think he knew he had to look after me. He did everything I asked, never putting a hoof out of place and thankfully there was no tripping in our individual show! The relief when my number was called into the top 10 was overwhelming especially after my ride on Windy. Again we were called forward into seventh place with his son taking fourth spot. Chief has now been to HOYS five times being placed in the top 10 every year and I feel hugely privileged to have been his jockey for four of those. I hope we may still have one more year in us!

Chief at HOYS. Photo credit: Helen Whiteley

Chief at HOYS. Photo credit: Helen Whiteley

Although I can’t pretend to not be gutted about what happened in Windy’s class I know how lucky I was to ride at HOYS on three very special ponies. All of them tried their hardest for me and as a team we had a great time.

I can’t thank everyone enough who messaged me after to check Windy and I were both okay, who hugged my shocked mum on the day, or who gave me a glass of wine. People say the showing world is bitchy but HOYS this year actually reminded me why we do what we do — for the friends we have made over the years and the beautiful ponies, who regardless of how it goes in the ring, you get to take home and hug!

Chloe