When she dropped her reins during her individual show, Danielle Hughes thought she’d blown her chances of a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) placing on her Welsh section C gelding Glynwyn The Living Daylights (Christian) who had qualified in his respective breed class. The eight-year-old, however, proved his star quality by continuing to breeze through his show and be called forward as the winner, a title he also won in 2015.

Special bond

“We’ve owned Christian since he was three,” says childcare worker and home produced rider Danielle who shares pony duties with her mum, Lyndsey Jackson and nan, Val Jackson.

“We’ve taken him from an unhandled companion to a HOYS winner. He was very nervous at the start but now I feel like we have a really special bond.

“One weekend, Mum was bored and scrolling through an online site when she saw his advert. He was only a 40 minute drive away so she went to view him and bought him on the spot. He hadn’t seen much of the world and was scared of his own shadow but giving him a job to do was the making of him. He could get worried about things so it was a case of two steps forward one step back, but once he understood none of this was going to hurt him he started to enjoy himself and got better and better. Now, the bigger the atmosphere the better he goes.”

In 2015, when Christian was five, the pair won the Welsh C final at HOYS for the first time and after standing fourth in 2016, they were back last year for another crack of the whip.

“Last year, the show involved two canter transitions on the straight, which didn’t worry me, as this is something I would usually include in my shows anyway,” explains Danielle. “The only thing I could do was hope he went well and that the judges liked him.

“When I was called out into first, shocked was an understatement. I never expected to return to win a second time. At that moment, all the hard work had paid off.

“When I dropped my reins on the canter change across the diagonal, I was mortified, but Christian just carried on. When I was presented with my rosette the ride judge commented that she had seen what happened and noted how beautifully schooled he was to just carry on as normal.”

Dedication

When asked if she has found competing against producers frustrating, Danielle says she has been lucky as Christian can hold his own in the strongest of fields. She added: “The people who do this as a living spend hours behind the scenes working and prepping, turning up to shows with a wagon full of ponies and run from ring to ring all day which takes some serious dedication — they deserve their success. I’d like to think I could maybe do the same one day.”

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Danielle’s top tips for success:

  • Self-belief — believe in yourself and your pony but also remember to be critical and always look for ways you can improve.
  • Work with what you have — you don’t need a fancy set up or sponsors. We don’t even have an arena at home so most of our work is done in open fields and out hacking.
  • Don’t over show — we usually pick a handful of shows at the beginning of the season, usually within a three-hour travelling time. Christian only contested six shows last year including HOYS and I believe that is why he never looses his sparkle.

Check out interviews with other HOYS victors and much more in Horse & Hound magazine’s showing special issue (15 March 2018), on sale now