When I started my blogging series, I swore I would never use it as a source of self-promotion in which I only ever wrote about my results. However, after what I can only describe as one of the best weeks of my life, I feel I owe a blog to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) 2016.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to apologise to my mother, who was somewhat indignant when I said in my last blog that our preparation this year had been ‘haphazard’. Although I would say it felt like a risk to me at the time to have not even been able to have a lesson since July, clearly my mother’s own method and extreme hard work at home worked just fine.
HOYS began for us on the Thursday, for the Mountain & Moorland (M&M) working hunter pony (WHP). Although I thought I’d woken up in excellent time to go and see my sister, Susie, ride her old pony, Kyregate Peter Pan (Jojo), who she’d only sat on once in two years (the last time was in May), it actually transpired that I had severely miscalculated the time it took to walk to the ring and so only arrived in time to see the results. Fortunately, she won. This enabled me to tell her with a fair amount of confidence afterwards how good her round was that I hadn’t seen.
Despite being absolutely thrilled with this win, I couldn’t help feeling that her victory had rendered it impossible for me to win either of my classes now that we’d used up our good fortune in having a win at HOYS already. For this reason, I did my class later on with no expectations at all. Even when I had jumped a clear round, I just didn’t have that knowing feeling. To my absolute shock, and complete delight, in a class with five other clears, Cashel Bay JJ (Cash) won.
We knew that our day could get no better. To have both won our only two classes of the day, and with my sister on her cherished childhood pony (very kindly lent back to her by Ruby Ward, who was second), was just a complete dream in itself. However, we went into the championship feeling hopeful, and since we made up 25% of those in it, we were thinking that at least one of us must have a chance. It’s the kind of thing though, that even when you’re hopeful, you know that there’s no way you’ll actually come anywhere.
Anyway, all my dreams came true when Cashel Bay JJ was announced as the M&M WHP Champion of the Year. Galloping down the centre line under the spotlight is something that will stay with me forever.
Unfortunately, the next day started with a blow. I was late again. I was meant to be at the ring fully ready to walk the course for the class before me; except I set my alarm an hour too late and so only woke up at the time I was meant to be there. In desperation, I sprinted all the way from the Crowne Plaza to the Topspec arena, practically still in my pyjamas.
Thankfully, my very kind sister (thanks again, Susie) got me a cup of tea and did the walk all the way to the lorry park and back again to get my riding things. Due to this immense act of kindness on her part, my frame of mind had improved significantly by the time I had to ride. Enough so that unbelievably Cash and I won again by an amazing five marks and got the highest mark of all the height sections all day.
Words can never describe what an incredible week it was. To do a clean sweep at Horse of the Year show and win three out of three classes and a championship is something that nobody ever expects to happen to them, and there are some thank yous that I really want to say.
First of all to my mother, who worked so, so hard in the build up to HOYS as ever. Susie for all her kindness and support. Daddy, for all his tolerance — I know you don’t really get it, so a double thank you for bearing with it. Dawn, whose help in so many ways has been invaluable, and Britt our groom, who only started helping us a few weeks ago. Rachel, who helped me walk the course and warm up. Freestep Superfix whose products we completely rely on. Will, our superb farrier, and our vet, Ben, who we found out afterwards had actually been there to watch. To every single well-wisher — I am told that there is a pile of postcards for me at home — you have all made it so special for me so thank you very much.
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And most of all, my pony of a thousand lifetimes, Cash. He is the kindest pony who brings with him friendship and happiness wherever he goes, and I know that I will never ever have another like him who could produce for me the week he has produced. I was also thrilled that his breeder, Robbie Fallon, was there to watch him all week, as was Jo Marsh Smith who produced him so beautifully as a young pony and Victoria Leavesley, who rode him to the first of his four HOYS wins and has supported me all the way with her mother, Bobbie.
This year HOYS was even more sad to have to say goodbye to. I am now back at school trying (in vain) to write my personal statement and thinking that HOYS seems ages ago. It stays with me however in the form of my enormously increased fitness from all the exercise I did, but that I didn’t really realise I was doing. Seriously though, I went to a body conditioning class the other day and it has never been easier. Forget weight watchers; just do a few days at HOYS next year.