So Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) came and went as quickly as ever.
We didn’t arrive until late Tuesday night as I had to work during the day. Ollie had taken Warwick into the evening warm-up for me and had said he had taken everything in his stride. We decided to not put him back in the warm-up the morning before his class as in typical male fashion he can get a bit grumpy doing too much work. Warwick is the most unspooky pony anyway so I didn’t have any worries about him being overcome by the ring.
The morning arrived and I had very mixed feelings as this was to be my last ride on him, so I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it — something that is often quite hard at HOYS!
However, from the minute I stepped in the ring with Warwick I enjoyed every second.
He didn’t put a hoof out of place and for once I actually felt like I thought about my show and rode it. He was a total pleasure and I couldn’t have been more happy.
As they started counting down the results in reverse order I was really hopeful for a place — I had never been under either judges before and had no idea on what they would like, so I could only keep my fingers crossed.
As Warwick (pictured above and below right) and I were pulled forward into fourth position I was so so pleased. It felt really great to have achieved such a good result with a pony I had found and worked on with Ollie and Jo from a novice to now a fourth placing at HOYS.
Not only was it a great result but I was so pleased with how he behaved. He stood like a rock and acted as if he had been there loads of times before. I couldn’t really have asked for a better final ride and felt very privileged to have owned such a talented pony over the last two years — I know he has even more to come in the future.
After a quick glass of champagne to celebrate it was over and the only thing left for me to do was head back into London for work!
Second crack of the whip
A few hours later I was on the train on my way back to Birmingham, tired but ready to work Chief in the evening warm-up to get ready for his class the next day.
Chief’s warm-up was a little different to Warwick’s — he was definitely what you would describe as sparky! I often think the ‘old hands’ at HOYS are worse — they know what it is all about and get a bit more excited.
After a fair amount of work we headed back to the stable and went off to find our friends and watch some of the showjumping. It was strange, but I went to bed a lot more nervous about Chief’s show than I did about Warwick’s.
The next morning went pretty quickly as I had some work to finish off and enjoyed myself sitting in the stands watching the hacks, but before I knew it I was heading off to get ready to ride Chief.
Heading down to the ring I felt the old familiar nerves coming up but as soon as I walked through the curtain into the arena they seemed to just disappear.
This year I was judged on conformation first and then went back into do my show — so I had a bit more time to imagine all the things that could go wrong!
Chief (pictured top), however, was on great form and the relief when we finished was huge — he really couldn’t have done much more. So now it was just the wait to see if we had made the top 11. This was Chief’s fourth year at HOYS and he has never been out the top 11 so the pressure was huge.
My number was quite high and I could see all the ponies coming forward and I was desperately trying to count how many in my head — then my number was called.
The countdown to first place began. Chief’s son got pulled forward into second place — a massive achievement — and then I held my breath as they called the winning number. Sadly it wasn’t me.
It feels awful to say I was a bit disappointed with my result, as to make the top 11 is just brilliant, but I guess after being second last year and doing a really great show this year I was hoping to be in the higher placings.
But as we say every year, that is HOYS!
I got to ride two fantastic ponies and both couldn’t have given me better rides — that is all you can really ask for.
I never forget how lucky I am just to be there and where you place so often becomes irrelevant.
Onto the next show
The next week we headed to the Heritage Championships for the last Olympia qualifiers.
I knew I didn’t have very favourable judges for Chief, but I went just to do the best I could — sadly even our best wasn’t good enough despite Chief really pulling it out of the bag in all his classes.
We probably ended up with one of the most disappointing weekends of our partnership and it was one of those moments when you begin to wonder what you are doing wrong?
Although a gutting weekend for Chief, it was a fab weekend for Warwick who, ridden by Ollie, took the Olympia qualifier. There were a few tears shed by me. Obviously it was a very bittersweet moment as I don’t own him now, but I felt so proud of what he had achieved. This year he has done it all — the Royal International Horse Show, HOYS and Olympia. He also qualified for Olympia and HOYS in mixed classes with the connemaras which is no mean feat for a New Forest.
It was lovely to see Ollie win the qualifier on him having put so much work into his career, and I know he was as proud as I was with his achievements.
It was a sad moment seeing him go off to his new home but luckily he is returning before Olympia so I have already booked in a sneak ride on him when he is back at Ollies!
Chief also headed back home to Wales for his winter break. I am not sure if he is coming back next year or not — let’s just say I am working my best on Jayne and Richard and am keeping my fingers firmly crossed he makes his way down south again, as I am not sure he is quite ready to retire yet.
Looking forward to Olympia
So now the ‘season’ is sort of officially over, it is just Olympia I am working towards and to be honest, it can’t come soon enough. I have become a neurotic weather watcher, intent on trying to keep Jacob’s coat so I don’t have to clip. I’m also battling the fact he can’t wear hoods or have rugs that go up his neck as I am already losing the ‘mane falling out battle!’
Honestly, I lay awake at night wondering if he is warm enough. I have five weeks still to get through and I haven’t even mentioned the keeping fit regime! We are going out this weekend for a practice and to see what his coat is looking like when out and about. I will be sure to give you an update of how we are getting on soon.