12 stars of Christmas: Meet the PE teacher turned producer who landed a HOYS double

  • Over the 12 days of Christmas this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the disciplines. These are people you really need to keep an eye out for in 2019...

    Next up in our 12 stars of Christmas feature is show rider Vicky Smith. Based in Cheshire, Vicky won two classes at this year’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) riding the large coloured horse Bart and the lightweight cob Bling Cobsby.

    Here are 12 things you might not know about Vicky:

    1. She’s been in the saddle her whole life

    “My mum would cycle to New Barn riding club and do the lead rein with me and my pony Sweet William,” said Vicky. “From there I progressed from first ridden to hunter ponies through to working hunter.”

    2. Her first big winner was a Welsh stallion

    Vicky was approached by breeder Liz Milner to show a Welsh section B pony called Laithill Harlequin.

    “I was only 10 and he was the nicest stallion ever. He gave me my first Royal Welsh and Cheshire County show wins,” said Vicky. “I rode many ponies for Liz over 15 years. In my late teens I headed off eventing but was kept busy with show rides for various people getting to ride some amazing ponies and horses.”

    3. She is a secondary school teacher

    Vicky is a PE teacher at a busy secondary school in Stockport and has been teaching there for 14 years.

    She said: “The school is very understanding giving me leave for important shows and judging appointments. I manage to ride before and after work and the 14 weeks holiday are certainly useful.

    “Students have pointed out straw in my hair the odd time and I regularly teach first thing in the morning with a riding hat imprint on my forehead.”

    Vicky is taking a sabbatical year from January to focus on the horses. “I am fortunate to have a good string of horses for 2019,” she added.

    4. The one that made her

    Vicky credits the Connemara Sydserff Golden Oak, bought from the late Liz Morgan by Liz Milner, as the one who gave her the first taste of top level success.

    “He gave me my first ride at HOYS at Wembley in the 90s. I was only 13 and the youngest rider by a mile, but he finished second. He was a tricky character and taught me a lot about riding in the ring as he was so crafty. He went on to be supreme at Ponies UK and best of breed at Olympia. I owe him and Liz a lot.”

    5. She has a dozen rides at present

    “We currently have 12 on the yard. I ride and produce everything from coloureds and cobs to hunters and riding horses.”

    6. She is a stickler for respect and manners

    Vicky feels strongly that competitors should avoid ‘judge bashing’ on social media: “Judges give up their time for free and ride judges especially make a huge effort for us. Showing is a tough game and you can’t win every time.”

    7. She won two titles at HOYS this year

    “My proudest win was at HOYS this year on the cob Bling Cobsby,”  said Vicky. “It was the first show horse my partner Alan Marnie bought to become involved in the yard.

    “I taught Alan to ride on him and he regularly hacks him, while I have used him for hunting. He’s the one that everyone rides at home and I sometimes use him to teach some of my pupils. It was his first trip to HOYS and he went beautifully on the day getting the highest ride mark.

    “When I won, I turned round and looked behind me at all the producers I have idolised for years and thought: Wow, this is a big win.”

    8. She credits her strong team for her victories 

    “My full-time groom is Kate Musgrave, who is amazing. She treats all the horses individually and I can fully rely on her. My mum Angela has been to nearly every single show with me from the start. She has a great eye for detail and helps me from the floor when I am schooling.

    “I have part time staff in Kiana Sangha and Alison Mason, who help with yard work, and Ross Garner, who helps with show preparation and comes with us when we need an extra hand.

    “Finally my partner Alan. He owns some of the horses and is 100% supportive of my crazy schedule in the summer. He works in China some of the time, but when he’s home he comes to shows and cooks delicious meals for us all in the lorry and always has a drink on hand to help celebrate or commiserate.”

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    9. Exciting rides for next season

    “I’m really excited to have some new faces for 2019. We have small riding horse Makers Royal Mist, owned by Alan. We have always liked him so are really excited to have him on the yard.

    “My owner Sally Iggulden has some exciting novice prospects waiting in the wings and I have a lovely novice hunter to produce for Sandra and Hayley Curtis.”

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine out every Thursday

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