The working hunter course at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is known for being a tough challenge, and David Cole’s 12-fence track proved as testing as ever this afternoon (7 October).
Only six clear rounds were recorded from a total of 38 starters, with one horse eliminated.
Scroll down to see the fences and find out why it was a true championship track.
Number of errors: 8
This rustic oxer required horses to jump towards the crowd. Many were noticeably distracted by this and there were some awkward leaps. Those riders who didn’t approach positively paid the price with a pole down. Eight horses knocked it down and one, Adele Hanson’s Bushman, refused.
Number of errors: 5
A right-hand bend took horses to this upright, which was sited next to the arena entrance and had to be jumped towards a dark corner. Five horses dislodged it.
Number of errors: 12
This oxer became one of the most influential fences, with 12 horses knocking it down. Several became too onward bound and kicked out the front pole. Those faulting here included Nicky Turriff’s Lux O’Neill, who cat leapt fence three but grew in confidence the further he got around the course.
Number of errors: 1
This boat obstacle at the side of the arena proved relatively straightforward. It only caused problems for Allan Birch, whose Portphilip CE ran out and knocked it down when represented. The horse also ducked out at fences five and six, and was eliminated.
Number of errors: 2
The only other combination to fault here were the reigning champions, Amy Tough and Columbo Nimbus, who also won in 2013. Andrew Williams had to sit tight when Bodieve Toyboy ballooned over this water tray, but they went on to record one of the six clear rounds.
Number of errors: 10
The Stonehenge fence was a notable absentee this year, but David Cole had shaken things up by introducing the Great China Wall — two of them on a forward two-stride distance — in the middle of the arena. There were two possible lines to approach on. Those who went around fence nine risked overshooting, while those using the inside route shortened the amount of time their horse had to see the question ahead.
Generally, the wider line worked better, although Joanne Ainsworth and Beseeka Red Hot Chilli Pepper opted for the shorter route and jumped through clear. Nine horses kicked out the ‘a’ element, with Sophie Round’s Capitan EC ploughing through but clearing it on their second attempt. Michaela Bowling’s Benjamin Bailey was the only horse to kick out the b element.
Number of errors: 7
A sweeping right-hand turn brought horses to this tricky upright, which fell even with the lightest of touches. It dropped to the floor seven times in total.
Number of errors: 12
Several horses failed to read the white poles on top of this hedge and it was as influential as fence three, being kicked out 12 times. Harry Gaunt and Rob had their only fault at this fence, as did Michael Cooper on Aughnabroc Ruaril.
Number of errors: 3
Most horses had settled into a rhythm by this stage, and the top gate only fell for three horses — Lux O’Neill, Libby Cooke’s Mousa Kousa and Lizzie Luxton’s Cardinal.
Number of errors: 0
The tractor fence was the only obstacle to remain intact for the duration of the class.
Number of errors: 9
Anchorman, ridden by Melanie Hennah, was on target for the first clear round of the day until he rolled this fence. A further eight horses dislodged it, including Rory Gilsenan’s EV Bios De Villa D’este.
Number of errors: 8
The final question was this green double — the most colourful on the course — with a forward one stride between the oxer and upright. Stephanie Scott’s home-bred Opis Day was one of six to knock down the oxer — his only hiccup on an otherwise rhythmical and flowing round — while two horses kicked out part b.
The six clear rounds came from Grand Conan (Tim Gredley), Uroko (Rosie Skier), Bodieve Toyboy (Andrew Williams), Celina Tettie (Alice McCullagh), Dartans Barrack (Fiona Hirst) and Gamekeeper (Tim Davies). The overall champion will be crowned this evening, with a full report on H&H tonight.
Don’t miss the full HOYS report in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound, on sale 15 October.