The legendary showman on embracing the journey, his collecting ring assessments and why he’s always watching and learning...
WHAT I’ve learnt over the years is that you can’t run every horse in the same way. Each one is different and you must, therefore, adapt a routine to suit his quirks to get the very best out of him.
Some horses don’t like schooling and prefer to hack, and vice versa. We’ve had one or two who hardly stepped foot in the school as it wasn’t their idea of fun. Then there have been others who didn’t enjoy hacking and would happily train in an arena.
With this in mind, you can’t be frightened to divert off a parallel line. If something doesn’t work for one horse, you have to find an alternative route to achieve the end goal. You’ll learn as you go along; I’m still learning and picking things up now.
Another thing I’ve realised is that you can’t make every horse into a superstar – initially, you want each of them to go the whole way but not every horse is cut out for it. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some great times with many different horses; I’d love to have any one of them back in my yard today.
Remember the horse
Before we leave for a show, I will always check we’ve packed the right tack and riding gear, as well as my “dunky” biscuits. There’s nothing worse than realising that you’ve forgotten to pack a bridle, a saddle or a bowler hat the night before.
A fellow competitor once helped me learn from her misfortunes when she’d forgotten to put a horse on the lorry. We were chatting away and a car drove up and she suddenly stopped and said, “Oh my God, I haven’t put her horse in!” I’ll never forget it.
The last thing I do before I go into the ring is assess my fellow competitors. When you’ve been to a few shows over the season, you tend to know everyone’s horses and their habits – so you know who to give plenty of space to and who to avoid completely.
Everyone rides differently, too. Some tend to trot very fast; I’ll position myself behind them so I can follow on and find my own balance and rhythm. It’s the same in canter; I won’t get behind a horse with a slow canter as I may have to pass them at some point, and it’s not good manners to do this in front of the judge.
I have many icons and I love watching the top people not just in showing but across the disciplines. You can learn so much from watching, picking up little tips and noticing what looks good.
“A great journey”
When you’re a young rider you’re desperate for knowledge, but the fun part of the process is learning as you go. If you have ambition, keep your eyes open and be prepared to make mistakes. If I knew what I know now, I might have achieved results more quickly and the horses might have gone better, but I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been a great journey.
My parents always supported and encouraged me in every way. They picked me up if I was down and patted me on the head when I needed it.
The best advice I was ever given was from a pair of great friends. Me and my wife, Anne, went out for dinner with the couple, and the lady told me that life comes in seven-year cycles, with many peaks and troughs along the way. You’ll have an amazing stretch before things go stagnant for a bit, but if you stay true to yourself, life will pick up again. If it worked once it will work again, and your time will come back around. It’s funny how true this has turned out to be in all areas of my life.
About Allister Hood
Allister is one of the country’s leading show horse producers. With son Oliver and wife Anne, he has produced over 75 Horse of the Year Show winners. He has also scooped countless victories at the Royal International and all other major county shows.
Also published in H&H 25 February 2021
You may also be interested in…
How do you make sure your horse shapes up? Talking at the BSPA clinic at Barleylands EC, Essex (12 March),
Save those perfect square halts for individual ridden shows and dressage tests, says leading producer Allister Hood
Find out why the winner thought this year's championship was 'one of the best ever'
A home destroyed by fire, runaway tractors, a spot of gardening and the lucky show cane he can’t live without.
In the final part of our training series with Allister Hood, the reigning Horse of the Year Show supreme champion