Now that another Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) has been and gone, our 2017 season is officially over. I am thankful to be able to tell you that, although we didn’t quite pull off our ‘Great Clean Sweep of 2016’, where we had three wins and a championship in three classes, we still managed to finish this year with another incredible HOYS.
I have to say I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful about how we would do this year. For starters, I got home on the Sunday before HOYS, having not ridden for three weeks and feeling quite worn down after the traumatic journey I described in my last blog.
Although Cash was as ready as he could possibly be, mummy had decided that it might be sensible to take me indoor showjumping to try and get me ring ready, so we traipsed down to deepest Essex where there was a British Showjumping event.
This proved that I was really very far off my game. So much so, that in the 90cm I forgot the course, had a fence down and had mixed up our ponies’ names while entering them, so that they were announced as Noble Sir and Cashel Sir JJ. Perhaps most embarrassing of all was that my navy jacket was tighter than a tail bandage and I had to be excused wearing it, with the commentator announcing a “jacket malfunction” at the start of my round.
Having only had a couple of lessons in the past 18 months, and deciding to go it alone this year with only my mother’s training help, we might have felt more nervous, but in fact we were very relaxed without any pressures, and we set off for HOYS on Wednesday in high spirits.
We also had the added excitement of meeting Dee from Devoucoux, who lent us two saddles for Cash and Percy over HOYS. Although I originally thought that this was a highly risky thing to do just before one of our biggest competitions of the year, Caroline March had generously let us try hers for the preceding few days and Cash felt like he was floating in his Wednesday night practice, so I decided to trust my mother on this one…
Luckily, it hugely paid off as Cash went perfectly to be second in the Mountain & Moorland working hunter pony (M&M WHP) the next day, only one mark behind the very worthy winner, Amy Smith and Laburnum Richard. Thank you so much to Devoucoux with this last-minute help, and I am thrilled that they will now be supporting us with their amazing saddles.
The next day, Friday, was the plaited working hunter pony classes. As you get older, you usually have the luxury of a later class. This year, however, they had very sadly reversed it so that the intermediates were at 7.30am and my class was after this. Although I’m not really a morning person, Cash was thankfully on wonderful form to win his class for the second year running, with a four mark lead. He really is unbelievable — he has had four HOYS wins now with me, and a fifth with Victoria Leavesley, who with her mother, Bobbie, are wonderful supporters. Having Cash’s extended family (his breeder, Robbie Fallon, is also a great follower), makes it all even more special.
Having returned Cash to his stable, got him back in his pyjamas and thanked him again, I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time celebrating as I then had quite an agonising sprint with groom Dawn back to the ring, where everybody had stayed to help my sister Susie, who had Percy in the class immediately after mine. Thankfully, I made it just in time to watch her go clear at her first ever HOYS with him, and she was eventually second on equal marks with the winner, which we were overjoyed with. We were so pleased to do well in the classes sponsored by Snuggy Hoods, who have supported us this season.
There is no show I love quite as much as HOYS. It is one of my very happiest places with some of my best ever memories and I don’t think there are many things which quite match the feeling of a win in that atmosphere. I think Cash feels the same — he just loves all the fussing and attention, and really relishes the products and trimming and tweaking. As my mother says, he ‘purrs’ throughout our stay from the moment the ramp opens.
I am so proud of our results, on such close marks, and of another generally very successful Horse of the Year Show. In our last six classes there, Susie and I have won four times and been second twice, which we could never have dreamed of. To be in another HOYS championship with Susie was also so exciting, particularly for my mother, who is very partial to a championship with as many of her children in it as possible.
There is always something quite surreal about HOYS and it was rather bizarre to load my suitcase onto the wheelbarrow and push it to Birmingham train station with mummy, where I jumped on to the train back to Edinburgh to university. I got the only free seat which mysteriously was next to a howling baby with remarkable stamina and no respect for my Latin translation, which I was urgently trying to work on.
Lucy has started her university degree in Edinburgh and this brings with it a few problems as she heads to…
As always, I can’t thank all my support team enough for allowing me to yet again fulfil some of my wildest dreams — Dawn and Britt, our supporters Freestep Superfix, Botanica, Snuggy Hoods and Devoucoux, whose products are all invaluable to us, Ben Portus, our superb vet from Paton and Lee who hopefully we don’t see too much of, and Will Longdon, our farrier who goes to such lengths. Finally to my whole family, and particularly my mother, who masterminds it all leaving no stone unturned — they have all done so much to allow me to have such a happy showing career.
Now for a winter of relaxing and preparation. See you all next season!