‘I qualified on a second at Lincoln County’: top showman Robert Walker on his first ride at HOYS aged 16

  • With Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) just around the corner, showing producer Robert Walker took some time out of his busy schedule to chat to H&H’s showing editor Alex Robinson about his early memories of the famous show on episode 69 of The Horse & Hound podcast.

    Robert’s first ever ride at HOYS was when the final was at Wembley. He was only 16 at the time and was riding the small hunter Double Vision.

    “Wembley was an occasion in itself,” said H&H columnist Robert, who has 14 classes to contend at HOYS this year. “When I was younger Dad would leave me at home so there was someone to look after the yard, but I first qualified for HOYS on a second place at Lincoln County to a rider at the top of her game, Sue Rawding. I remember that feeling of the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. Now, things have changed and I go into win qualifiers, but I can still remember the class. I was so pleased to get to HOYS. Double Vision was the most amazing thing. Dad clipped her out for me; she was a grey so she looked well clipped. I was unplaced but I had a great ride and a fantastic time.”

    The following year, aged 17, Robert returned to Wembley on another horse and finished third in the small hunter of the year final.

    “Back then there was time for every class to go through to a final judging so I got the chance to wear my top hat and tails,” continued Robert. “I have the most lovely picture of me stood in the line, with Robert Oliver in fourth looking down at me. I was chuffed to finish third, it was the most fabulous occasion.”

    Robert’s first HOYS victory came when he was 23 years old, aboard the lightweight hunter Hallmark. Since, Robert and his wife, Sarah, as a team have won countless classes and championships, and have ridden down the centre line at HOYS many, many times.

    “As you get older, you appreciate the wins even more,” he added. “When I was younger, and still able to party and do my job, you could celebrate and drink far too much, so it all passed in a bit of a blur. Now, I can remember every step of my lap of honour. I now appreciate the horses and all of their achievements in different ways.”

    Robert’s final piece of advice for anyone heading to the NEC next month is simple:

    “Just take your chance and go for it; hopefully if you knock on the door with the right horse, you will be let in.”

    Catch Robert talking about more of his favourite HOYS memories and who he intends to take to this year’s final on episode 69 of The Horse & Hound podcast. 

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