It seems so recently that everyone was rushing off to the last HOYS qualifiers of the year, all with the collective dream of qualifying, desperate to get those last few tickets.
I will never forget the first time I qualified, aged 10, after two years of trying, and feeling the privilege of being able to compete at ‘the world’s most famous horse show’. I think that’s why HOYS is so special: dreams become reality there.
Last year, I had the first fence down and remember immediately thinking that that was it for a whole year. My chance blown at the first fence. But whether this dream is just in qualifying or in winning at HOYS itself, everything to do with the show has an unmistakable, magical quality about it.
This quality is enhanced once you arrive. Not only is the atmosphere electric, and particularly when you are riding, but like the majority of the big shows I am now noticing, the setup is completely different to any normal show you go to. The consequence of this for someone there with ponies is most notably the extended amount of walking you have to do.
For me when I think of HOYS the first thing that springs to mind is walking down that road walkway (you know the one) at 7.30 in the morning, freezing cold, with the occasional train speeding past. It is the walkway that, after you’ve already had a good 10 minute walk (at least) from your horsebox, has a sign at its beginning that says: “10 minutes to the Caldene Arena” just as a bit of gentle motivation. However, presumably as a reward for doing so well, if you are through to a championship you have the pleasure of the main arena which is considerably closer, meaning that from the sign your walk is only seven maybe even six minutes longer.
However, when I am being less cynical, the general buzziness and excitement of the show also comes to mind. Of course it is always very bittersweet, as being the last one in the season it is where many people will have their last ride on their pony and where you say goodbye to your friends and to the season until next year. Goodbyes like this are even harder when they’re being said somewhere really special and where you have some of your best memories which personally I find leaves me feeling very nostalgic over the winter.
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Nevertheless, I can’t believe that another HOYS week is finally upon us. I know that there has already been a full day of competing, but for us it all starts with the Mountain & Moorland working hunter pony class tomorrow.
Our prep has possibly been slightly more haphazard than previous years, but I couldn’t be happier with the way Cash (pictured top competing at HOYS previously) is looking and feeling. We are particularly honoured this year to see his breeder, Robbie Fallon and his wife Barbara, who are coming over from Ireland to watch him. I hope we can do him proud!