In the weeks leading up to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), amateurs and professionals alike found themselves on the unique treadmill this show generates. We were so focused on the intensive preparation — constantly checking coats, weight and way of going — the whole process seemed relentless.
As the dates drew closer, the work only intensified with all the last-minute preparations. Yet when the show itself is actually upon you, it seems to pass in a whirlwind, featuring a rollercoaster of highs and lows of emotion and a distinct lack of sleep. All in all, it takes quite a while to recover from it, so I’m pleased it is only once a year.
When I’m asked for advice about how to cope with this unique occasion, my reply is always the same: take a moment to remember the day you qualified. On that day, the elation the children and parents feel is unparalleled. That sense of achievement is then often lost on the run-up to HOYS and on the day itself but, regardless of the result, no one can take away the memories you have of that day.
For the lucky few who won or were highly placed, congratulations and enjoy every single moment. Without being defeatist, there are no guarantees you will ever be in that position again.
My memories from this year will include how well our own children rode in the ring and how well the ponies looked, along with results. However, my overriding ones will be of two people.
Acts of kindness
First, my fellow professional pony producer, Katy Carter, was taken ill prior to the show and could not attend.
Katy received an overwhelming number of messages and offers of support from the showing community before and during the show. Her daughter, Poppy, stood at the helm, and Katy’s whole family, staff and clients rallied round.
Together, they pulled off the near-impossible by not only getting through the show, but also by getting through with great success. It just goes to show that you should never underestimate the support and power of a team.
Second, I was truly honoured and proud to be able to watch Sam Walker in the main arena in front of a capacity crowd blow his hunting horn in memory of the late Bradley John as a mark of respect and to raise awareness of bullying. Well done to everyone at HOYS for taking the time out of their evening schedule to allow this to go ahead and well done Sam for your courageous and kind act.
Hopefully it will be these acts of kindness that the showing community will be remembered for long into the future, when the colour of the rosette will be forgotten. The showing community is much stronger when we stand together and support each other.
Into 2019, we should be actively discouraging any bullying, in any form, whether that be jibes at the side of the ring, face-to-face insults or on the ever-popular social media forums. Ultimately, we should enjoy our sport while respecting judges, stewards and hard working volunteers as well as being gracious to our fellow competitors.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 October 2018