Life lessons: Show horse producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable *H&H Plus*

The show horse producer on being colour-blind to rosettes, her go-round pet hates and the bridesmaid horse who stepped up beyond expectations

  • H&H columnist Katie is a top showing producer who is based in Essex. She has won the supreme championship at both Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS). As well as being The Queen’s show horse producer, she is an esteemed judge and accredited coach.

    As soon as I’ve backed a baby, I take them out hacking on the lanes. It’s the most important part of a horse’s training process. I let them go forward in a happy yet controlled way; I take them out of that goldfish bowl and let them see the world.

    It can be too easy to tack up and head into the school for 20 minutes each day, but this can be monotonous for horses and this is when they become resistant. Routine is important but variety in their work is essential.

    I always tell young people not just to give 100%, but double it and give 200%. If you want to be successful, you have to listen, watch and learn. Find people you respect as trainers and never be frightened to ask questions. Realise you’re never perfect, and always look ahead to the next goal.

    On competition day, I make sure to give myself enough time. We plan everything and pack the lorry the day before, so all we have to do is wake up and plait up. Each horse is given their normal breakfast so they have a full tummy before they leave. Horses often don’t want to eat when they get to a showground, so this keeps them happy.

    Maintaining etiquette

    When I’m about to step into the ring, I like to know who I’m going to follow in or if I need to go in first if I’m riding a particularly bold, forward horse.

    I hate overtaking – especially in front of the judge – and I hate people coming too close to me from behind. I use my corners and ride in the same rhythm as if I’m working at home – too many riders push their horse out of their natural rhythm. If you need to circle then do so, but if you ride in and out of each corner you shouldn’t get too close to the person in front.

    I wish I had spent more time eventing during my youth. I picked it up in my mid-twenties, after having both of my children, and my time before was split between showing and point to-pointing; I didn’t have the time to compete in three disciplines. When the pointing wound down a bit I was able to pick up eventing, but it would have been great to learn the job as a teenager.

    Once, when I was very, very small and still on the lead-rein, I cried over a place at a show. My parents told me never, ever to do that again and I never, ever did.

    When I was bringing up my own children, they never knew what the colour of a rosette meant. Parents shouldn’t be too hard on their children – make sure they’re doing it for enjoyment and not for a rosette or they’ll lose interest.

    Older and wiser

    During my career, I’ve broken my neck twice, which has made me change my routine. I spend a lot more time with the horses on the ground lungeing, long-reining and working through different exercises. It gives us both confidence in each other and allows us to work as a unit. In the past I’d break in a horse and jump on, but I’m older and wiser now; it’s just about safe riding.

    I lost my lovely horse Azarax as an eight-year-old to a fatal guttural pouch haemorrhage. He was phenomenal and I never thought I’d have another like him. At the time Azarax was competing, Dunbeacon had always been there in the background; he was called the bridesmaid because he was always second in line. When Azarax died, he had to step up.

    In 2010, we took him to the final ladies’ qualifier of the year and he picked up his HOYS ticket. That year he was supreme there. It’s unfair to say which one I’d have back – it would have to be both.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 October 2020