A brush with death, Windsor whitewash and multiple back-to-back HOYS titles. Robert Walker, who guest edited this week’s showing special (17 March), has enjoyed many great moments in the show ring on beautiful horses — we celebrate some of the best below.
1. Pride & Joy
Robert suffered a crippling brain virus in 2010, which left him unable to talk or walk. So riding Pride & Joy to stand hunter champion at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) several months later was a poignant moment.
“He’d been reserve for two years running and, conformationally, was the best horse I’d ever had,” recalls Robert. “But I couldn’t even walk, let alone warm a horse up, so I was plonked on in the collecting ring and just about lasted four laps of the arena.
“I had to wear a sticky glove and boot to stop dropping the contact in the evening performance. Finishing overall champion meant the world to me.”
2. Double Coin
An oldie but a goodie: Robert credits Double Coin’s performance at the Royal International (RIHS) as a turning point in his career.
“Double Coin was a major influence on my career. I had him when I was 16 and he took me to RIHS for the first time. I was pulled in top out of 43 and suddenly everyone sat up and took notice. We eventually finished third but it was very much a turning point,” says Robert.
3. Cool Green Star
Although he now lives in Cheshire, Robert was born and raised in Yorkshire, and he always wanted to win the hunter championship at Great Yorkshire Show. Cool Green Star (pictured) obliged in 1998, when Robert was 23.
“For a Yorkshire person it’s the pinnacle and winning there was a huge deal for me,” says Robert.
4. Caesars Palace
The “George Clooney” of showing stood show hunter of the year at HOYS in 2014, aged five. He was out of action last year due to a chipped tooth and will make a comeback this season.
5. Vantage Point
The year 2015 was a stellar season for Robert, culminating in Vantage Point standing heavyweight winner and overall show hunter of the year at HOYS.
6. Starry Night
Starry Night was also crowned maxi cob of the year in 2015, and retired to the hunting field. “Basil” was a winner at HOYS six years in a row, originally as a heavyweight until he measured out of those classes last season.
His showdown in the ring with Simon Reynolds’ Hallmark, another multi-titled cob who dominated the lightweight scene prior to maxi-cob classes, attracted much attention.
7. Windsor whitewash
Last year started as well as it finished for Team Walker, with a Windsor whitewash in May. Grand Slam, the middleweight tragically killed by colic in August, took the novice championship and Pride Of Place claimed the open title, while the novice lightweight Shroughmore Emperor, novice cob Randlestown Rolex and Starry Night were also winners.
“Windsor is early in the season for us so it’s hard to have horses bang on, but it’s always an aim to have a novice champion there,” says Robert.
8. Silent Words
Despite lacking match practice after injuring his back at The Royal Show several months earlier, Silent Words successfully defended his small hack title before standing champion with Robert at HOYS in 2008.
9. Party Time
The small hunter Party Time won £1,500 when standing supreme at Great Yorkshire show in 2013. The horse was small hunter of the year at HOYS in 2011, where Team Walker also took second place on Golden Tasset. Both horses belonged to Jill Day
10. So Smart
Robert and So Smart stood champion cob at HOYS in 2006. The pair were reserves the following year, when So Smart stood supreme coloured champion with Robert’s wife, Sarah. It was a special moment as it was Sarah’s first win at HOYS.
11. Broadstone Doulton
The riding horse Broadstone Doulton stood champion or reserve every time out in 2007, including standing supreme with Robert at RIHS, the British Show Horse Association national championships and HOYS.
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12. Whalton Forgery
RIHS 2012 was a good show for Robert, with Whalton Forgery (pictured), by Kilvington Scoundrel, standing champion hack and Royal Engagement finishing reserve in the small section.
Don’t miss H&H’s showing special (17 March), guest edited by Robert Walker, on sale now.