If you’re involved in showing, chances are you’ve dreamed about qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). Competing under the bright lights of the NEC in October is a lifetime ambition for many showing riders, breeders and trainers.
With many leading riders and quality horses contending the qualifiers, the cost of competing at top level and the general challenges faced when trying to juggle equestrian pursuits with the responsibilities of daily life, gaining a ticket to the prestigious final can be hard and it eludes many.
But one rider who didn’t give up on her dreams is Jessica Williams, who recently qualified her native coloured pony Supernova (Oscar) for HOYS at CHAPS Midlands show. Here she shares her story about how she came to gain a place at the final:
“When I was 10 my mum took on a second nursing job, working nights so we could afford to stable on a producer’s showing yard. That producer was Colin Rose. Colin’s assessment of me was that I’d never be one of the talented ones, but if I worked hard I’d be alright. Sound like harsh words to dole out to a budding HOYS hopeful at 10 don’t they? To be honest he did me a favour, and he was right. I was no Vanessa Rowland or Melanie Packham back then, and I’m no Katie Jerram-Hunnable or Jo Bates now, but Colin taught me what it was to work hard for what you wanted and that dreams were possible if you did.
“People make qualifying for HOYS look so easy, don’t they? You know the ones. It’s not easy. It’s bloody hard work. It’s pushing your relationship with your mother to the brink. It’s early mornings and late, exhausted nights. It’s making lists of every single thing you can improve on by 1% and then working tirelessly on each in the hope it all adds up to that winning mark. It’s waiting a year to find the right pony to get you there. It’s lesson after lesson of agony where you push yourself past every limit you thought you had. It’s daily meditation to convince yourself you will keep your nerves. It’s keeping those ‘you’re not good enough’ voices at bay and watching equestrian yoga videos on YouTube. It’s remembering to eat a banana 20 minutes before you go in the ring because a kind soul told you it would keep you calm. It’s having the audacity to dare to believe you’re worthy, dusting yourself off after every set back and getting back in the ring.
“Although he’s no longer here to witness it, Colin’s prediction came true. With hard work I became ‘alright’ and last week, we brought home our golden ticket to the ‘chocolate factory’. And isn’t it a relief to know, that for those of us for who it doesn’t come easy, those of us who have to work harder than the talented kids — that with self-belief, tenacity, dedication and a smidge of luck (because we all need a bit of luck), those golden tickets can have our names written on them, too. So there you have it Colin, I did alright. And if he was still here he’d be puffing his chest out and opening the champagne quicker than you could say championship.”
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“Thank you mum for being the Bernie to my Elton — you are my team, Jo Bates for teaching me what it means to ride it like I stole it and to Dinah for polishing my edges in our lessons each week, come rain or shine for the past 20 years. The biggest thanks of all goes to you Oscar, for being my Mr Right, having the eye of the tiger and trying your little heart out for me. I’m forever grateful to you little man.”
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