A home destroyed by fire, runaway tractors, a spot of gardening and the lucky show cane he can’t live without. Here are some little-known facts about showing star Allister Hood
1. Allister Hood is very attached to his show cane. “I joke that if I lost it I’d retire! I’ve had it for years — ever since I’ve been married — and it’s hidden in the living on the lorry. I can’t show without it.”
2. Gardening is Allister’s favourite way to spend horse-free time. He has a circular lawn at the front of the house, while his wife Anne looks after the back garden, which boasts a large pond and swing.
3. When the couple moved into their Norfolk farm in 1983, the cottage had a thatched roof. Seven years later, it caught fire and exploded. Thankfully the family escaped before that happened and nobody was hurt.
4. The cottage had an open fire and the cause of the blaze was likely a tiny hole in the roof space, which enabled it to fill with gas. “It probably built up over the years without anyone knowing. The minute the gas couldn’t escape anymore there was nowhere to go but down. Suddenly there was a big explosion and the whole house collapsed,” explains Allister.
5. Anne project-managed the rebuild, which took two years — the family of six lived in two caravans in the interim. The farmhouse is much bigger now and isn’t thatched.
6. The couple have four children: Louenna (31), Oliver (28), Harry (27) and Ben (24). Only Oliver rides and shows professionally, while Ben is huntsman of the Dunston Harriers. Harry preferred football and running — he was once crowned Norfolk’s champion cross-country runner.
7. Allister regularly hunts his show horses. “It’s a brilliant education — plus I couldn’t afford to keep a hunter! I had some great days out on Our Cashel Blue last winter.”
8. He has three horses to show this season: Annabel Jenks’ riding horse Diamonds Are Forever, Caroline Tyrrell’s coloured cob Our Cashel Blue and Jack The Giant, an ex-racehorse owned by the Jackpot syndicate. There are 20 horses stabled with the Hoods in total. Some are campaigned by Oliver, the rest are produced for clients.
10. His top tip for those starting out in showing is: “Look and learn. As a kid I used to love sitting by the ring and watching. You really pick it up and learn what to do — as well as what not to do!”
11. Allister’s father and grandfather showed shire horses and cattle.
12. Despite growing up on a beef and arable farm, Allister hates tractors. “I loved the stock side of farming but I couldn’t stand tractors — they either wouldn’t start or ran away with me,” he says.
13. Allister always had a pony growing up, and he was a member of the Middleton Hunt Pony Club’s Prince Phillip Cup team.
14. In February, Allister was crushed in a horse fall. He broke all bar one of his ribs — several in multiple places — and suffered a split liver. He has no memory of the accident; he only remembers getting on and then waking up in hospital.
16. Allister had suffered broken ribs once before, when he tripped over a foal’s leg and landed on a water tank. One of his kidneys split and a chunk was removed by doctors, along with his damaged spleen.
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17. His top tip for up-and-coming riders is to ask for advice. “If you’ve got a problem, find someone you respect and ask what they would do. You don’t have to take the advice but it gives you another angle. You can learn from everyone, even if it’s how not to do it,” he says.