Robert Walker: ‘We’re all under pressure in the run up to HOYS’


  • The Cheshire-based leading show horse producer warns that showing never gets any less demanding

    IT’S been around a month since we came back from the 2021 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and what an incredible, albeit exhausting, week it was.

    I always feel immense pressure ahead of HOYS, like any other professional. I go there with the aim of just having one win if possible and so to take the small hacks with Royal Visit Park William on day one really set the tone for our show.

    It snowballed from there with each of our riders – my wife Sarah, our daughter Izzy, our client Zara Brookes and me – enjoying wins. Congratulations to everyone else who succeeded at HOYS. Just remember that getting there is the hardest part and your fate is in the hands of the judges on the day.

    With no HOYS for two years, I had almost forgotten how tricky that period of time is in between the last show of the season and our visit to the NEC.
    HOYS is constantly playing on your mind and you struggle to think of anything else until it’s all over. I don’t enjoy this time, but it’s all part of the game.

    When you pull up at the show, you instantly remember what an occasion it is and why you want to win here.

    When Izzy came out of the ring after winning the 122cm show hunter pony of the year class, she was visibly shaking with excitement, and it is the dream for anyone in showing.

    We put pressure on ourselves, even though we know there will only be one winner in each class and that the result doesn’t take any shine away from your achievements during the season. It’s showing, and you will only come away with what the judges on the day will allow.

    The supreme win was the most fitting end to our hunter View Point’s season. The last two times he’s been presented for the supreme, in 2017 and 2018, I made the mistake of leaving him at the show until Sunday, in a relatively small stable with little sleep.

    This year, after the hunter championship, he was boxed up immediately, driven home and enjoyed a couple of days in the field. I felt such a difference in him, and it proves we are all constantly learning what our horses need and prefer.

    Marks for all to see

    THERE was lots of discussion about the use of marks, mainly from the horse competitors who don’t ride with them during the season. The negative chit-chat after the class signalled to me that it might be better not to publish the marks for all to see after the class, as it creates more uncertainty than helpful clarification.

    The stewards and judges are under great pressure in the ring and putting the marks on display seems to circulate more negative than positive feelings.
    It was also evident that some of the judges lacked practice using marks and didn’t use a broad spectrum. It’s not their fault, as some won’t have used marks very often, if at all.

    I’m glad the initial pull-in continues as this is a highlight of the class.

    In my mind, when a judge pulls in their top few exhibits, then these are their best horses on the day. Then the judges should assess the individuals against each other. I don’t think marks necessarily give a true result of the class, hence several horses from right down the line moved up to receive a high placing.

    Back in business

    LOOKING ahead to next season, I hope we’re not quite as worn out mid-term. This year, there were lots of shows crammed into the middle, so maybe the calendar will even out a little bit.

    This year, the crowds have been the most enjoyable part of showing. When spectators were allowed to visit Royal Windsor in July, it felt like our sport was back in business and it gave our owners something to look forward to.

    However, with the recent news of the cancellation of the Liverpool International Horse Show, we must be wary that the pandemic is far from over. I was gobsmacked when I heard the news and gutted for both the organisers and those competitors who had qualified for the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) mountain and moorland supreme final.

    The BSPS found an apt solution to a challenging situation, with the final returning to the London International Horse Show in December, meaning those who run a business from showing these ponies can now gear up for one of the key finals.

    ● Are you affected by the Liverpool cancellation? Email us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 11 November

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