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Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is over for another year, and what a show it’s been. Our team had a great week, taking the hunter title with View Point who was his usual fantastic self. A good horse can often become a victim to its own success, so after the Royal International we gave “Sean” a holiday and built him back up on the roads, which has done him the world of good.

The last time I was in the Cuddy was when I won with Vantage Point 11 years ago, so it was special to lead the three-year-old MHS Morning Master to win the horse class this year. I rate him very highly and feel he has a big future under saddle.

In all, the horses went well and did their jobs in competitive classes, as expected at HOYS.

Why lose the go-round?

This year was the first time all of the hunter classes haven’t done an initial pull-in after the go-round. For me, showing is about being the best and the worst. The go-round is a key component of a class — what’s the point of it if it’s not going to be rewarded?

It also puts our judges under even more pressure. Some of the hunter judges won’t have ever used a marking system and time constraints already bear a massive burden, so the pull-in can really help with the structure of the class. We have already lost so much of HOYS, does the go-round really need to be cast aside as well?

Nevertheless, I take my hat off to HOYS. After nearly losing the show 20 years ago, they’ve got it back on its feet, and Sandy Anderson and the Grandstand Media team have made it into a flourishing brand and a business.

I agree that the tight timings can be frustrating, but with so many classes to get through over the course of the show, it is a struggle to fit everything in. If more time were to be allocated to classes, some of the newer sections such as the juniors, the ever-popular coloureds and the part-breds — which produced the 2018 pony of the year — would have to go. With the new schedule of classes, everyone is included and everyone has a chance of realising their dreams.

Preparation is key

I would tell anyone— home-produced or professional — that if you’re not ready for HOYS then you need to give up. This “end of season finale” gives us so much time to get ready for it that there is no excuse for not being over-prepared. I saw some fantastic-looking horses and ponies look fit and show ring ready with stunning coats.

A special mention must go to those competing in the TopSpec Arena. The buzz of that space is immense. A show animal must be so well trained and mannerly to perform in there, where everything is on top of you and you can literally feel the atmosphere in the air — while if you’re on a sharp horse in the International Arena at 7.30am, you could easily mistake it for a quiet winter show.

On a final note, I was a very proud father on Friday night, when my 14-year-old son Sam went into the International Arena in front of 10,000 spectators and blew his hunting horn in memory of Bradley John, a young equestrian who tragically took his own life last month after suffering from bullying. While HOYS has got a lot of stick and has received some criticism over the years, this was truly one of the nicest things they have ever done, finding time to fit it into their schedule. What a touching gesture that will be remembered.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 October 2018