There are two things you can guarantee with Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). One is that there will be plenty of excitement and the other is that you can count on seeing a few surprise wins.
The unique atmosphere can turn the formbook upside down. It can also see partnerships who have gone well all season pull that extra something out of the bag to wow the judges.
Congratulations to Team Bardo and rider Jayne Ross, on winning the supreme with riding horse champion Broadshard Simplicity (pictured).
One of my favourite memories from this year’s show will be judging the SEIB Search for a Star series.
I wish I could have brought our champion home — Nikki Johnson’s four-year-old Diamond Roulette, who won the hunter section, had an attitude to die for and is definitely one to watch. He is a true DIY job, because Nikki bred him out of her Irish sport horse mare and has produced him herself. It’s fantastic to win on a four-year-old and for him to be a homebred must make it even more special.
Thanks to the SEIB team, this series has gone from strength to strength and the standard gets higher every year.
One sour note: why are there always last-minute complaints on social media from people who hide behind made-up names, don’t seem to have read the rules and have “just discovered” that certain combinations who have qualified for prestigious competitions are supposedly ineligible? Everyone in that ring deserves our congratulations.
First-class New Forests
A big cheer should also go to New Forest pony breeder Katie Baxter, breeder of the M&M champion, Marleydenes Shiraz and — as if that isn’t enough — the pony who stood second in the New Forest class, Marleydenes Nashaal. I saw Alexandra Hawkins, owner and rider of Marleydenes Shiraz, in the working-in area and the stallion really caught my eye.
At one time, New Forest ponies were perceived by many showing people as second-class citizens. These two, and many others, prove that isn’t the case and I hope more people will think of the breed when looking for a versatile pony.
People often claim that show horses have short competitive lives, either because judges supposedly get bored with seeing them or the horses get bored with showing. While I believe we should make sure every horse has an all-round education so he can go on to another job if necessary, there are some who love the job and keep on pulling out all the stops.
Joanne Singfield’s 12-year-old heavyweight hunter winner Rockefeller, ridden by Alwyne Fradley, is one of them and deserved his place at the top of the line. It seemed the judges couldn’t take their eyes off him.
My two left feet
After hoofing it at HOYS, I’ll soon be hoofing it for charity with my dancing partner Tommaso Covella. As participants in the Strictly MK (Milton Keynes) dance challenge, we’ll be at Bury Farm Equestrian Centre, Bucks, in December to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Keech Hospice Care.
The event follows a familiar format, with professional-standard dancers teaming up with the not-so-professional.
I’m a useless dancer — I can see a stride, but on the dance floor, I have two left feet.
Fortunately, Tommaso’s dancing talent may help to hide that and I hope friends in the showing world will support me and help raise funds for two great causes.
This column was originally published in H&H magazine on Thursday 22 October, 2014