Can you keep your horses out 24/7 and compete at a high level? This primary school teacher proves you can…

  • In 2021, Roanna Hamilton achieved one of her lifelong ambitions when she reigned in The Queen’s back garden at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Her ride was Victoria Ward’s traditional coloured pony Red Warrior who Roanna has had on loan since early 2020.

    But how does Roanna do it, especially considering she doesn’t have an arena, keeps her horses outside 24/7 and works full-time as a primary school teacher?

    Roanne was first introduced to top level showing by her native coloured gelding Nantllesg Elwyn. The pair won a host of titles including at New Forest and Hampshire, Suffolk, Traditional of the Year Show and Equifest, among others.

    “He was, and still is, an amazing pony,” says Roanna, of Elwyn who still resides with her and is now eligible for veteran classes. “He won me my first Ponies (UK) championship back in the day and was the highest placed amateur pony in his final at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS). He definitely got me hooked on coloured ponies.”

    Roanna was first acquainted with Warrior during the first lockdown of 2020 and she enjoyed a successful 2021 in the show ring with the former RIHS champion.

    “We’ve done everything together, including some jumping and working hunter,” she continues. “I did feel some pressure, as he’d done so well before I got him.

    “At home he now lives out 24/7 and is produced from the field. We don’t have a school or any facilities aside from one stable and a small wash room, so any training or preparation has to be done either out hacking or in the field when the land is dry.”

    The Royal Windsor victory was a “dream come true” for Roanna, who also rode Warrior to an RIHS ticket as well as accolades at the CHAPS championships, BSPA, CHAPS South East and Herts County.

    “We hope to contest side-saddle classes this year,” Roanna continues. “Keeping them outside 24/7 is hard work, especially in winter, but it does mean I don’t feel guilty if I don’t get the chance to work them as they’re exercising themselves in the field. Warrior is as happy as Larry and seems to really enjoy the outside life.

    “All my schooling is done out hacking; if the ground is too wet I can’t ride in the field. When I do manage to ride on the grass I do lots of fartlek training, so I do fastwork on one side of the field and slow down on the next, to improve fitness. I also have to regularly ride with a head torch.

    “Sometimes during winter I do ask myself why I do it as it requires long hours, and keeping them clean can be a nightmare. But it’s all worth it. I find the ponies are happy in their heads, too, and they’re ready to learn and get on with the job. Admittedly, I couldn’t do any of it without my mum; she’s also a teacher so we cover for each other when one of us has a meeting or can’t get to the field.”

    When it comes to ensuring the ponies look show ring ready when the time comes, Roanna has a routine she sticks to.

    “I oil them to the max using natural products,” explains Roanna. “I avoid using too many chemicals on the skin and prefer raw oils to promote hair growth. I rug them, but not with full neck rugs as they can rub the hair. I keep their manes and tails plaited and avoid brushing them too much. The night before a show I will bring a pony in and scrub until they’re clean before blow drying them out to save time. I then use wood flour to dry the feathers.

    “My advice to any aspiring amateurs is that it doesn’t matter what facilities you have, you can do it if you do your homework and put the work in. I’m constantly learning from the celebrities of the show world by watching and listening to pick up tips and tricks that will work for me and my ponies. Everyday is a school day for me, literally!

    “Breeder Lisha Leeman once told me that everyone has to do their apprenticeship in showing, even the professionals at one stage, and this has stuck with me. The producers might have big teams around them, but they still have to put the same work in.

    “It’s important to observe, keep an open mind and take baby steps along the way. Even if you have a duff day in the ring, it’s an opportunity to learn and be a reflective rider so you can be better the next time.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...