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Well, the finale of HOYS [Horse of the Year Show] seems to have come and gone in a whirlwind. I was delighted with how my horses performed, and everything we took stood in the top five, even the first-time novice.

The key to surviving HOYS with the least amount of stress is to remain calm and positive under the pressure. This is often easier said than done. I’m always amazed at how we are expected to get the job done with such tight time constraints. The fact that the gate opens at the same time as exercise starts, at 5am, is really a stretch too far. Exercise can run for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. We have to queue for the vet check, queue for passes in the office, queue to park, tack up and get down to exercise — quite some distance away — within this time frame. It’s really really tough, especially when you may have four to exercise. Surely HOYS could look at opening the gates at 4am in order to give us half a chance to get organised?

Money matters

The majority of competitors would also like to see a reduction in exhibitor ticket prices. A week at HOYS can be crippling financially — you get three passes per entry, but when we need to purchase extras, they are too expensive at £80 per day. Why do exhibitors (the entertainment) have to pay considerably more than the general public (the audience)?

It really is a show like no other though, and it’s great to be a part of it. We were lucky to enjoy hospitality on our first day and it struck me how precise and well done the show was, from
a spectator’s point of view.

The slickness and swiftness with which the arena was transformed was quite something. I watched the team set up a course of showjumps from scratch, clear it for a show class and then set up the obstacles for Pony Club games, and it was all done seamlessly. A real credit to the behind the scenes arena party, who are so often forgotten.

Finding the quality

On the whole, the results stayed true to the form book, with a few surprise winners, which was quite refreshing. Again, I heard that people couldn’t follow the marks system, with points not reflecting performance or conformation faults. I firmly believe it’s time we did away with that system, as I’ve said before (comment, 9 June).

There were a handful of horses that stood out all year to me on the circuit, and they didn’t disappoint at the final. Two of these were Allister Hood’s cob Our Cashel Blue and riding horse Diamonds Are Forever. I tipped both to win, and they duly did.

Two hunters that I feel have the most potential — and certainly when they have matured next year — are Simon Charlesworth’s middleweight Romanno Royale, and Robert Walker’s heavyweight Patrick’s Choice, who is a real old fashioned sort of heavyweight, like we used to see on the circuit 20 years ago. Finding big quality horses like these is not easy, and nor is finding owners willing to invest the time and money they require.

Ref Horse & Hound; 3 November 2016