Edward Young: ‘There’s more to life than a red rosette’


  • Leading horse and pony producer Edward Young on HOYS preparations and prize-givings...

    THE build-up to this year’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) was probably the most stressful I’ve experienced; or I’ve just forgotten how much goes into it after having a year off. The darker nights, stress over flu vaccinations and having a lot more time to think in the run-up all contributed to the worry.

    When we pulled into HOYS after not being there for two years, it really does remind you what a huge undertaking it is. It’s such a massive show and we must thank Sandy Anderson for putting it on; I can’t imagine there would be many people who would be willing to take HOYS on as a commercial enterprise.

    It also hit home how hard everyone works, including the security, stable and parking guys, so I was saddened to see some of them being given grief by competitors.

    All the classes were particularly strong and there wasn’t one animal I questioned over being present. Like any show, there are results you agree with and others you find perplexing, but as someone who has officiated there before, I know what a hard task the judges have; with a grandstand full of some of the country’s most knowledgeable horse people, you often feel more judged than the animals.

    Social media continues to stagger me, when I was able to watch the supreme from a live-stream at home. In years gone by, I would come out of the ring and phone people to let them know how I’d got on. Now, people know the results nearly before the competitors.

    Soon, I think the current days of showing will be known as the golden years as I can’t see HOYS continuing in its present format for much longer.

    When I first attended HOYS in 1973, there were three TV channels and HOYS week took up viewing on one of them. The crowds were packed in to watch the showjumping and people were able to watch their heroes in real time. Today, the public just aren’t as interested in equestrian sport and, as it’s so expensive to hire the NEC, I can’t see it continuing in the same way so it may have to alter in some way.

    When I was a kid I would want to watch everything at HOYS and relished the opportunity to watch my idols such as Harvey Smith and David Broome. Back in the day, these riders weren’t in their own compound and were stabled with the rest of us. I was in awe walking around with them.

    I’ve been lucky to watch then compete against the likes of Vin Toulson, Robert Oliver and David Tatlow, but admittedly, back then, I didn’t have as many responsibilities. HOYS is like Christmas for a kid, although now I can relate a lot more to those hard-working elves behind the scenes, of which I feel I am now one.

    The 2021 show season has been a lot friendlier than previous years; in 2018, I found there to be an atmosphere and showing wasn’t always a nice place to be. I would love this friendly trend to continue. We mustn’t assume that the pandemic is completely over; it took me five stops to fill up my lorry with diesel on the way back from HOYS and we may still suffer from shortages and restrictions next season.

    Covid has given many a new perspective and we’ve been unlucky to lose some producers who have realised that there is more to life than showing. For those who have stayed, let’s continue to be competitive but realise that there is definitely another day if you don’t win, and that a red rosette is not the be-all and end-all.

    As a final comment on HOYS, I would encourage organisers to rethink the current prize-giving in the pony classes, where a top 11 are pulled forward and only nine are placed. It’s extremely disheartening for the children left in the back line and it’s cut-throat.

    If HOYS want to place 11 then I recommend doing so, but there’s no need for a top 11 for only nine to be placed. Also, sending unplaced ponies out of the ring to a cheering crowd can unsettle those left in the ring and encourages bad behaviour.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 14 October

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