I have a confession to make. I never missed a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) until it moved to Birmingham’s NEC, since when I haven’t been once — until last week. I know, bloody southerners. It’s been my loss, clearly, as I established when attending this time.
The show is just as packed with thrilling jump-offs as I remember and, to prove that little changes, John Whitaker is still winning a plethora of them — this being his 43rd visit to the show.
The mounted games are still a joy to watch, too — even if the production of these ponies has become more commercial than was ever intended at the competition’s conception.
Whether or not the Horse & Hound Foxhunter still serves the purpose it was designed for is up for debate as well. Is it still the talent-spotting showcase it set out to be, or have many in its rank already further proved themselves since qualifying? It’s a decent — possibly too decent — sized track for a six-year-old to be expected to tackle at speed.
That said, nobody doubted Jude Burgess’s worthiness as a winner with Carvelo Z. And it’s still one everyone wants to win.
I felt guilty sitting adjacent to the H&H fence, seeing how many riders it caught out, despite having no part in its design.
And the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry was as magnificent as ever — what else could instill the feeling you get watching the last rider exit at speed, Union Flag aloft and billowing out behind?
This column was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 16 October, 2014