The 2018 season has been great for 19-year-old show jockey Alicia Thomas, who has bagged herself a first ticket to the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), after 16 years of trying.
The pony she will be riding at the NEC is her own small intermediate show riding type Toncynffig Liberty Belle (Taylor), who was purchased by Alicia’s gran three years ago, as a 16th birthday present for her.
Alicia admits that Taylor hasn’t been the easiest ride.
For the first six months we just had to get to know her, as she came to us as an untouched four-year-old,” said Alicia. “We worked her on the ground and then sent her away for breaking while I was completing my GCSEs, as I just didn’t have the time to do her myself.
“When she came back, she certainly wasn’t the easiest, but I just thought to myself, I do love a challenge.”
After working at home during 2016, the mare was lightly shown last season, nearly qualifying for the Royal International (RIHS) and also standing second at the Royal Welsh.
“She could be so quirky and unpredictable in the ring so we had to take our time with her,” said Alicia.
“At the start of the year (2018) I started my own business, breaking, schooling and producing horses. Me and Taylor had a few more frustrating seconds, narrowly missing out on qualifying for RIHS, but I was just so proud that we had finally got to the bottom of her.
“Then came the start of the HOYS qualifiers — we had no expectations, but just wanted to get in the ring and maybe get in the top 10. We racked up two seconds, a third, two fourths and a fifth.
“We then travelled down to Dunster Horse Show (17 August) for another crack at the whip. She did a beautiful go round and I was feeling confident to go out and do our show. She certainly gave it her all. We produced a flawless show with a three loop serpentine with a walk to canter and a circle before a gallop — I later learned that we achieved 48/50 for our show. She stripped beautifully and then it was time for the results. In a class full of top horses and producers I was nervous as she’s produced so many beautiful shows in the qualifiers before. And then my number was called out in first — we’d just qualified for HOYS!
“This was my very first HOYS ticket, which has only ever been a mere dream for me. It means the absolute world, especially to achieve this on a horse who has made me sweat so much and has reduced me to tears so many times.
“I couldn’t do it without my mum, Maryanne Thomas, who has driven me all over the UK since I was a little girl. I can’t wait for this incredible experience.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.