I am writing this on the train as I make my way from Edinburgh, where I have just completed my first three weeks of university, to home, to start the very exciting preparation for Horse Of The Year Show (HOYS).
I had what was perhaps, in hindsight, overly high expectations of this journey. Earlier this year I confided in my 25-year-old cousin Rory, who likes to be known as The Raunchy Baron (although possibly not in the workplace) and also went to Edinburgh, with regards to my fears of excruciatingly long train journeys between home and Edinburgh. He quickly reassured me with a description of how his train journeys supposedly used to manifest themselves: the epitome of calm and luxury, in a swanky Virgin train, with endless cups of coffee, croissants, and newspapers.
Armed with this image, and also very much led on by the Virgin train adverts, which depict a similar scenario, I was really rather looking forward to my five hour journey, on which I planned to meditate about HOYS, get in ‘The Zone’, and recover from quite a heavy night…
You can therefore imagine my horror now that I am in my carriage to find it absolutely full to the brim with rowdy Scots in their mid 20s, who, from what I’ve picked up among the relentless shouting, are on their way to a festival. It is also suddenly occurring to me that Rory is renowned for his unfathomably lavish lifestyle, and was probably describing first class to me when he spoke so passionately about the bliss of the train. Nevertheless, I am getting some minor relief from the man sitting next to me, who, praise the Lord, is fast asleep.
Thankfully, any sort of trauma incurred on this journey is very much worth it for my absolute favourite show of the year, HOYS. I hear from the trusty team at home that preparations have been stepped up. These started with a team lunch in the pub in early September, where we all go through the diary, this year’s and previous, and make a day-to-day plan right down to the last moment. Obviously this has to adapt as the ‘Big Day’ looms, but it’s a great starting place and my sister Susie and I are told that the “HOYS Boys” (as they are called for these six weeks) are just about on target. At any rate, the human team certainly is, so my only worry now is that I go rusty quite easily and my own riding might be back to square one…
Snuggy Hoods, whose products are invaluable before and during a big show like HOYS, are sponsoring the plaited working hunter pony classes, and have supported Susie and I this year, so we would dearly love to repay them with really good performances.
I also have the great excitement of a new six-year-old at home, who goes by the lovely name of Gladiator. Our plans for him aren’t set in stone yet, however he will be aimed at some spring British Eventing (BE) events, potentially be an intermediate worker, and in the meantime I am really looking forward to having a learning time with him and doing a bit of hunting.
He has already had his first morning out with event rider Caroline March, and was very sensible — he’s probably as close in type and temperament to Cash as we could have found and I adore him already. Everyone who has met him so far seems to have loved him, with one very notable exception; Cash. Having had to give up his ‘dressing room’ for this nuisance baby, he can’t bear to look at him, and so Gladiator has had to make temporary arrangements with his paddock until after HOYS to ensure that Cash has a clear view from his bedroom without anyone irritating him.
The very best of luck to everyone competing at HOYS!
An update: the man next to me has just woken up and, although with some final grains of optimism I am still hopeful that it is too early to be sure, he does appear to have a severe case of Tourettes.