Two months of training with Valerie Swinburn paid off for the Sharpe family, with 10-year-old Zara Sharpe taking the Mini Show Pony title on her third appearance at HOYS. This will be her last show with her mother Lena’s Woodview Ianthe as she is out of the class next year and the pony is now for sale. Zara may have been tearful during the prizegiving, but will soon have something to cheer her up; the commentator announced she was promised an iPhone 6 if she could win this year, having previously picked up 6th in the same class.

“I’m the one that gets nervous,” explains Lena, “she’s normally pretty cool”. A cool head was certianly needed in the First Ridden class to follow the strict show set by the judge, but luckily for Zara she has been working on her show at Valerie’s yard in Durham, where the pony has been based for the past eight weeks. “Zara’s lovely to teach; very calm and collected and remembers everything you tell her,” said Valerie, “and it was lovely to see her win this, as my daughter won the same class in the nineties – it brought back happy memories.” The whole family agrees that Valerie has been “amazing” in the lead up to HOYS, with Zara’s uncle Ronnie crediting Zara’s win to the extra time spent in the saddle.

‘Ellie’ has been a real family effort to produce after the last two years, as spends her time at Ronnie’s yard, out with his hunters, during the winter months. Lena jokes that “sometimes Ronnie is in trouble as she winters a bit too well,” and Zara’s cousin Victoria has also been with the family “every step of the way”, giving help and advice.

Zara fits in riding around school by going straight to the yard to ride in the evenings, and missed just one day to compete here at HOYS. She and Ellie will go forward to the Supreme Pony championship on Sunday evening, for her chance to ride in the main arena for the first time.

Woodview Ianthe’s breeder Moira Barron had plenty to be proud of in this class, with three Woodview ponies forward, all by her stallion Woodview Filidori, including Ellie’s full sister Isolde. Reserve mini champion Barkway Precocious, ridden by Ella Georgakis, was one of three First Ridden ponies by the prolific sire Beckside Little Toff, who also sired five ponies forward for the Lead Rein section. Both the champion and reserve are previous winners of the title, with Woodview Ianthe winning for the first time as a five-year-old in 2011 with Abbie Farmer, and Barkway Precocious taking the crown with Lexie Laurens two years ago.

Don’t miss the full report from HOYS in Horse & Hound, out 15 October.