A plastic owl deterring pigeons and horses that ‘park’ — the surprising secrets behind a HOYS champion’s yard

  • A plastic owl in the arena, two playful dogs, sticklers for detail and much more — success starts at home, says successful showing producer Jo Bates. Scroll down to discover the reigning Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal Windsor champion’s best-kept secrets…

    The grey Connemara Jo is riding is Cashelbay Rocket, a new ride for Jo this year who is being aimed at HOYS & Olympia

    Olive the owl sits on top of the mirrors in the 30x60m arena, her head turning from left to right. She helps prevent birds flying into the mirrors and since Jo has placed a similar owl in the yard no pigeons have entered.

    All horses have a varied workload, schooling in the arena and field as well as hacking. There are grass gallops on site, which are a mile long.

    Jo rides Robbie Fallon’s Connemara Cashelbay Rocket with daughter Holly on Ann Drabble’s middleweight hunter Lowmoor Windsor. Both are HOYS bound.

    Luna is six-month-old Toller. The breed’s full name is Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and it is the smallest of the retriever breeds.

    Tilly is seven and belongs to Jo, while Luna is Holly’s dog. Both play and run around as the horses work, so they are entirely dog-proof — and loose dogs are never an issue at a show.

    Jo and Holly’s horses are stabled an Oxfordshire farm owned by the Prentices, who own Bill Levett’s four-star eventer Shannondale Titan.

    Elusive (left) and Cambridge in the indoor yard. All Team Bates’ horses can be ‘parked’ — left standing in the yard without being tied up and not moving until they are asked. After all, good manners are everything in the show ring.

    A kiss for Suzanna Welby’s Elusive (Chalky), hack champion at Royal Windsor in May. Jo says a highlight of her career was the hack Broadstone Dee standing supreme at RIHS in 2002.

    “I never thought I’d have a horse good enough to do it again, but I believe Chalky really is,” says Jo.

    Jo plaits Rocket’s tail before returning him to his stable. Attention to detail is everything and both Jo and Holly are a stickler for keeping the yard and horses clean and tidy.

    Tidiness continues into the tack room as well…

    …Where there isn’t even an unfolded rug out of place.

    Tilly and Cambridge are great friends.

    It’s a long way up! Holly climbs on to Lowmoor Windsor, who is 17.2hh. The rider used to compete in intermediate classes and is still registered with societies so that she can ride in championships if she is needed — this would occur if Jo qualified more than one horse for it.

    Cambridge (left) is one of two dressage horses campaigned by Holly. He competes at prix st georges level while Argentus has qualified for the advanced medium regionals. Elusive is being aimed at the Royal International (RIHS) and defending his hack title at HOYS.

    “We would like to have a couple more dressage horses if we could so that we’re half and half,” says Jo. “The Connemara will probably do dressage too. It’s good for them to do different things.”

    There is a horse walker on site.

    Jo and Holly have won multiple ribbons, sashes and rosettes between them. Jo also coaches and judges, and will judge the middleweight hunters at RIHS this year. It will be the first time she’s judged at Hickstead and Elusive is also qualified to contest the hacks, which runs on a different day.

    Continued below…

    There are two part-time staff members: Fern Heryet (pictured above with Cambridge) works in the afternoons with Emily Farmer covering the mornings.

    Don’t miss the full interview with showing producer Jo Bates in the 22 June issue of H&H.

    You may like...