Leading mountain and moorland (M&M) producer Katy Marriott-Payne would usually be in the final thralls of preparing her string of open ponies for the prestigious M&M supreme final held at Olympia. Though for obvious reasons, this year is a little different.
“Normally, there is just so much going on,” says Katy, when H&H’s showing editor Alex Robinson chatted to her on episode 29 of The Horse & Hound podcast. “I’m trying to juggle getting ponies ready, Christmas and everything else which goes with that. It’s really strange; there’s this big gap between the season that hasn’t happened and the hope that next season will start up again.”
Katy, who has been victorious at Olympia on three separate occasions, first rode at the final on Welsh section B stallion Lemonshill Limelight.
“It didn’t go too well,” she laughs. “I always say that it takes three goes at Olympia before you even have any idea of how to do it. It’s a show like no other. My first time riding there was memorable for all the wrong reasons. If I knew then what I knew now it might have been different. I didn’t fall off or anything like that, but Limelight was definitely on his toes.”
After her debut Katy accelerated up the final placings, eventually achieving her centre line moment in 2005 aboard Exmoor mare Stowbrook Jenny Wren, who is still the only representative of her breed to lift the crown.
“I think she was a little bit underestimated on the day,” says Katy, of the then five-year-old. “I don’t think M&M competitors would expect an Exmoor to come up with the goods as they can find the atmosphere difficult and some of the flashier breeds tend to shine on the day. We just went there to have a good day out and show everybody what she could do. This summer, I watched the videos back from when she won. She was a really lovely pony and it was her day.”
Katy achieved another breed record in 2016 riding Welsh section A stallion Uphill James Fox.
“Having done it with Jenny a few years previous it made me want to break another record with the Welsh section A; I’d been second and third with the stallion Delami Destiny in 2007 and 2008 so it just made me more hungry for the win. James Fox was one of those ponies who loved the atmosphere and on his day he was amazing. He felt great the day he won and he was certainly a pony who was deserving of the title.”
Katy achieved her hat trick the following year riding Welsh section B Cadlanvalley Sandpiper who already had a phenomenal Olympia tally.
“It was so speacial; Sandpiper has been with me since he was a three-year-old. He’s like putting on a pair of slippers. I trust him implicitly and I knew he’d pull all the stops out.”
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When asked what she thinks goes into winning the coveted title, Katy says you really need to be confident in your pony’s capabilities before you enter the ring.
“We iron out any issues long before we get into the situation; the atmosphere affects the performance of both pony and rider and while I like to think I don’t get too nervous you can’t help the excitment kicking in.
“You have to try and prepare for every eventuality that you possibly can. The fact we get to do an individual show of choice means you can play to your strengths. Generally, I like to keep the show simple with a flowing performance which is well within the breed type, though the freedom does allow you to put as many tricks into your show as you like and really make the most of it.”
If you’d like to hear more from Katy, including how she feels the Olympia final has changed for the better and worse, and much more listen here to episode 29 of The Horse and Hound podcast or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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