‘We owe a lot to grassroots showing’: Meet the rider who went from unaffiliated champion to HOYS winner in a year

  • Showing is a sport accessible for all levels of riding, and while a win at major fixtures such as Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS) is the ultimate aim for many riders, grassroots championships have seen a significant rise in the last few years. One rider who began her showing journey at unaffiliated shows is 13-year-old Ruby Rodgers, who finished her 2021 season with a win in the 138cm children’s riding pony of the year championship at HOYS, on what was her first ever ride at the NEC.

    Her winning pony was the nine-year-old bay mare Wycroft Forget Me Not (Doris), who is produced by Julie Templeton and her team.

    Ruby started riding aged two.

    “We had gone to Derby cattle market for some chickens and ended up coming back with a pony who cost £90,” explains Ruby’s mother, Maria. “Ruby started attending some local shows with this pony and they won quite a lot together.”

    A couple of years ago, Ruby nearly gave up riding after a scare with one of her ponies.

    “This meant she didn’t come off the lead rein until later on, and we actually thought she’d finish riding for good,” continues Maria. “Ruby persevered and we got into grassroots showing, beginning with Equine Sports UK, Supreme Showdown and later attending the STARS championships.”

    One of the family’s biggest achievements was winning the supreme two years in a row at the Equine Sports UK grassroots championships.

    “Prior to this year our HOYS was Equine Sports UK, which was always such a fun event to attend. We looked forward to it every year; we have four children who all attended and it gave them a massive boost. Ruby was supreme there in 2018 when judged by Geoff Billington and Bob Champion. The following year Ruby’s sister, Rhiarna, took the supreme. Those wins were massive achievements for us and they’ll stay with us forever. 2021 is the first year we’ve been to HOYS; we went with no expectations and all Ruby wanted was a nice picture.”

    Maria came across Doris, who is currently back with the family for the winter months, on an advert on social media.

    “We were having the odd lesson with Julie and when we went for a session we mentioned that we were looking for a new pony. Coincidentally, the pony she suggested was Doris, who I’d seen online. Ruby had a little ride on her and we decided she was the one.

    “Julie has really looked after Ruby; Ruby was still eligible for first ridden classes, but as she’s so tall she’s had to step up to the 138cm class.

    “2021 has been the first year we’ve not done a local club show; as we have Doris with a producer we thought it wasn’t fair to attend.

    “When Ruby and Doris won HOYS we all cried and it was a memory I’ll cherish forever.

    “Grassroots showing has done so much for us and we owe the shows a lot. Everyone has to start somewhere, even if it’s from the very bottom. Everyone involved in the shows has been hugely supportive of Ruby’s journey and they’ve all congratulated her on her victories this year, backing her 100 percent.”

    You may 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...