Life lessons: Showing supremo Jayne Ross *H&H Plus*

The showing supremo on sitting quietly and checking your horse’s mood, her sporting bloodlines, Frankie Dettori’s style and why jacket colour is key

  • Jayne is one of the greatest show horse producers of all time. She won her first championship at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in 1966 with the show pony Cusop Pirouette and has since won the HOYS supreme accolade seven times, most recently in 2019 with the heavyweight hunter Twinshock Warrior.

    I wish I’d known when I was 16 that I’d still be doing this job at 63. I’ve been showing for a long, long time but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I do sometimes wonder how I still manage the early mornings, the late drives home and the quick turnarounds. If you’d have told me back then that this would be my life now, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it does just go to show what a wonderful time I’ve had.

    Both my parents were top sports people in their own right; my mum was an Olympic ice skater and my dad a twice world speedway champion. They always told me that they didn’t care what I did with my life, but I was to put everything I had into it. I was born with their competitive nature, which has stood me in good stead. My mum was a northerner and she always said that “you don’t get owt for nowt in this life”.

    Ask, never tell

    I’ve always been a rider to ask rather than demand. I try to accept any positives a horse offers me and will reward them by sitting quietly and giving them a breather. It’s so important to read your horse when you get on, as they change on a daily basis. You must check their mood before you ask anything. I will never press a question for too long; I will do 10 minutes of quality work and leave it, rather than push for more.

    I can’t remember exactly who I heard this from – I think it was a good old-fashioned vet – but I maintain that getting horses out in the field is the best thing. They’re herd animals who like company and freedom. All of my horses enjoy downtime and they’re out as much as possible, even during the show season.

    There is always a lot of pressure on show day so I like to give myself, and the horses, more than enough time. You can always guarantee that some sort of problem will pop up. We always plan and know the layout of the showground. Are the rings spread out or do we need to make time for getting through crowds of pedestrians? We’re lucky that the yard is well placed for the motorway, but shows such as HOYS need planning to perfection; there is only one way up and one way down from the ring so you’ve got to give yourself those extra minutes.

    Quite often, if we have lots of horses at a show where I’m off one and straight on another, I have to check myself and what I’m sitting on. When I’m riding four or five in a row, it’s often a case of looking down at my jacket. If I’m wearing tweed, I could be on a hunter or a cob so I know I need to travel more and show a good gallop; whereas if I’m in a blue jacket, I’m on a hack so I will make everything more polished and refined. It sounds silly but it helps.

    Mr Perfection

    One person from yesteryear I used to admire was showjumper Peter Robeson. He was a beautiful jockey and his horses went in a simple snaffle, a plain cavesson noseband and a running martingale. They used to look so soft and supple around his leg.

    I also think Frankie Dettori’s ability to judge race pace and his natural balance are incredible. If we could all ride a horse like he does, we wouldn’t interfere with them at any stage in life and they’d be a lot better off for it.

    Everyone who knew the grey heavyweight Silverstream would agree that he’d be the one I’d have back. He came from Ireland and was Mr Perfection in every way. Anyone could ride him and adored him. I hunted him later on after his showing career. I wouldn’t want to do it differently, I’d just love to do it again.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 September 2020