It’s the show we cover the country trying to qualify for and from the minute you arrive, HOYS is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. It really is the place where dreams are made or broken.
As the last show of the season, it can mark the time when a horse or pony moves on to pastures new. There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Rob Walker retired cob Starry Night after the maxi cob’s sixth consecutive win here — what a way to end this horse’s prolific career.
It was also an emotional show for Poppy Carter, who marked the end of her hugely successful partnership with Rotherwood Rainmaker with another win in the 128cm show ponies.
At the other end of the scale, you have riders enjoying their first time at HOYS. We took three debutante lead-rein jockeys this year and they loved every minute of the whole experience.
Another first-timer was Lily Ahern-Lee, aged three. Led by her mum, Alex, she won the lead-rein show pony class on Barkway Sweet William — an experience the whole family will not forget. These children are the future of showing.
It’s not about the tricks
There are differing views on whether handlers should be expected to demonstrate that they can lead ponies from either side and keep the same way of going.
At this level, you have to be prepared for everything and practise it beforehand, but at the same time, we must remember that the class description means that judges should be looking for the best pony, not the quietest one.
If they want to make it a class for the pony who does the most tricks, or an equitation class, they should change the name. British ponies are the envy of the world for their conformation, breeding and type, and we mustn’t lose those criteria.
The explosion of the use of social media around the ring makes it far easier to find out results and in many cases, watch the results by video immediately after they happen. Personally, I’m not a big Facebook fan, though I do see that any positive PR that extends showing’s attraction to a wider audience is a good thing.
Dinner at 1am
Around this year’s show, I heard mainly positive comments, though there was disappointment at the number of clerical errors in the catalogue. Fortunately, the professionalism of the commentators meant that most names were read out correctly in the ring.
Inevitably, HOYS provides a strange environment. We’re living on a car park for a week where Greenwich Mean Time is irrelevant; we live by class times and working-in times, and eat whenever there is a slot in the day to do so, even if that means having dinner at one in the morning.
It’s a physical, mental and emotional endurance test but for some, the rewards are great. One thing is for sure — we will all want to be back next year.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 15 October 2015