Simon Reynolds: A lifetime’s ambition realised *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist on not attending HOYS for the first time in three decades

    It is the first time in more than 30 years that I am not preparing horses to compete at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). It’s strange that we’re all missing camping out in a car park in Birmingham and surviving on three hours’ sleep a night, as well as a diet of toasties.

    Seriously, though, there is no greater feeling than riding down that centre line under the spotlight in front of a packed crowd. It’s what we all work for and is usually the culmination of a season’s work coming to fruition. When I won the supreme horse of the year title on Heather Clay’s maxi cob Hallmark in 2013, it was a lifetime’s ambition realised and a moment I will never forget.

    I do feel incredibly sorry for the younger riders who have lost their last season with a specific pony; it is a year in competition they will never get back. I really hope that HOYS can come back bigger and better next year, although we cannot forget the amount of money that the organisers will have lost already. And we won’t yet know just how significant that loss will be. We have already seen county shows cancelling their 2021 fixtures. I fear that those shows relying on the public through the turnstiles will suffer the most.

    On the positive side, we are seeing our fabulous equestrian centres being utilised more than ever. It has been proven that shows are possible at these venues, where they are not relying on general public admittance numbers. The financial risk is much lower if the show were to be cancelled, although I am sure getting a decent insurance policy is a nightmare. It seems coronavirus will be with us for some time yet, but we are learning to adapt and what seemed like the impossible a few months ago is now proving very attainable.

    Embrace the changes

    Show organisers have had a very difficult job in unchartered waters. In time, showing will go back to the former days of big county shows, with crowds and ride judges, but for now we must support and embrace the changes. These restrictions are only short term. We have all had to make changes in order to survive.

    I have been increasing my coaching and I derive real pleasure from helping others fulfil their potential. I have learnt to use my skills on a broader scale. It is not just about using your own talent, it is about imparting that knowledge and experience to others. This is a game where you never stop learning. I really hope that the enthusiasm we have seen in people to train continues over the winter months.

    Engage riders to survive

    I have to applaud the British Show Pony Society. They have been at the forefront of trialling new concepts and looking after the membership. They ran their sports and working hunter pony show at Vale View Equestrian in Leicestershire (3 October issue). Young riders were encouraged to have a go at arena eventing. To further encourage new members, ponies did not have to be registered and the rider membership fee was halved.

    All societies must do their utmost to keep owners and riders invested and engaged, for our sport to survive.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 15 October 2020