Another HOYS has been and gone, and as always by the end you are physically and emotionally drained. But despite the sleep deprivation and long-distance walking, coupled with the pressure of competing, we will all no doubt be back in 2017.
This year there seemed to be a great atmosphere and very few niggles. However, working-in times featured as a huge topic of conversation around the showground. Showing competitors were allowed only half an hour at night and 20 minutes in the morning, which is simply not enough time to prepare these animals for such an important occasion. We are lucky enough to live close to the NEC and can therefore work all ours at home and then transport them across, but I do feel for competitors who do not have this luxury.
It must be a logistical nightmare arranging working-in in a car park in Birmingham where space is at a premium, but this issue needs looking at. Competitors must be able to prepare their animals for the show to the best of their abilities.
I mentioned the issue of rider weight in my last column (15 September). Unfortunately at HOYS they seemed to target the show pony lead-rein and first-ridden working-in slots. These sections have the smallest and most vulnerable jockeys and the ponies do require correct preparation to keep the children safe in this buzzy environment. The working-in times are so short anyway that having a vet in the middle asking riders to dismount — with no apparent criteria other than “I think you look too big” — not only created mayhem but ultimately compromised the safety of the children.
We were fortunate enough to win the show pony championship with Litton Enterprise, ridden by Phoebe Price, who made it a double after being champion at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS). Interestingly, the HOYS show pony championship result was exactly the same as at the RIHS, with the champion and reserve both coming from the 148cm section, because Poppy Carter riding Basford Black Prince was reserve. I am sure that this unusual double has not been done before. Enterprise then stood overall pony supreme at HOYS, which does not happen often in anyone’s equestrian career.
HOYS should be commended for the spectacle that was the cavalcade, which took place at 10.30pm on Sunday. It was a privilege to be part of it. From Mamma Mia! to Nick Brooks-Ward reading the Ode to the Horse, to our Olympic team and Nick Skelton being presented with equestrian personality of the year, it was entertainment at its absolute best.
On this occasion the use of social media was a positive as many not at HOYS could view the evening performance on the livestream. What a wonderful way to unite our equestrian community and to celebrate the best horse show in the world.
Ref Horse & Hound; 13 October 2016