Simon Reynolds on HOYS week: ‘The adrenaline gets you through’


  • Top cob producer Simon Reynolds congratulates the HOYS organising team and calls for changes to make the show more competitor-friendly

    HORSE OF THE YEAR SHOW (HOYS) is the most challenging, but also the most spectacular show of the season.

    This year there were some interesting facts about the show printed on the wall leading down to the International Arena. One that really struck a chord was that more than 17,000 competitors attempt to qualify for this show each year, which I found incredible.

    It’s easy to come away disappointed if you did not achieve the place you hoped for, but you must rationalise it and take your season as a whole. The achievement of just qualifying to compete there is immense.

    I took a team of young horses this year, many of whom were first-timers. In the lead-up, with Covid and then the fuel shortage, preparation was difficult.

    I’m always amazed at how well horses cope at HOYS, despite the incredibly restrictive entrance times and working-in arrangements. I’m not sure that the system of allowing only 25 minutes of arena familiarisation is fair.

    I have said this before, but I hope HOYS will look at some of the details, such as the gate-opening times, the vet-check system and the queues in the pass office, which are stressful.

    Currently, the gates open around 4.45am and the vets arrive around 5am. Then there is the need to queue for bridle numbers and passes before parking the horsebox. Plus, we’re expected to work the horses in between 5am and 5.25am. The whole thing is near impossible. Surely it could run a lot more smoothly and be more competitor-friendly?

    We got up at 2.30am every day in order to try to stay in the game. It’s the adrenaline that gets you through HOYS week, and you feel physically, emotionally and mentally drained when it’s over.

    Congratulations to Robert Walker and View Point for clinching the supreme horse title. After winning the hunter championship together for the third time, it was very much deserved. What a loyal owner Jill Day is to the Walkers. Mrs Day bought the now 10-year-old horse as a foal and it’s some commitment to keep an animal from then until now.

    To have loyal owners is essential. You need to know that all of your team have your best interests at heart, otherwise it must be unsettling. I made the conscious decision to keep my yard small a few years ago, and to hand-pick people I can trust.

    Another stand-out horse was Margo McIntyre’s Kirsty Aird-produced British ridden heavy horse of the year, Glenside Matthews Flower Of Scotland. This Clydesdale mare gave an outstanding performance in the supreme. It was as stylish as any blood horse and was an absolute spectacle to watch. Well done to all the connections. It was the best performance from a heavy horse that I have ever seen.

    Sadly, this season I have noticed some obese animals being rewarded with the top spoils, and this is disappointing. In this day and age, there is no excuse for it, no matter who is sitting on top. “Overdone” horses can become unlevel as a consequence. It’s a bad advert for showing, demonstrates poor horsemanship and is a significant welfare issue that needs addressing.

    I was so pleased that the judges were able to pull in the horses after the go-round at HOYS this year. The format at the last HOYS of a random selection was not only difficult for the audience to follow, but also did not reward the top horse’s performances as a group. I am always slightly sceptical when judges choose not to pull in.

    Most of all I would like to congratulate the team at Grandstand Media for pulling off a fantastic show, especially with the uncertainty of the Covid situation. Hats off to them.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 21 October

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