Stuart Hollings on the HOYS in-hand supreme championship legends
All eyes will be on this week’s Price Family supreme in-hand final at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). This year’s stellar line-up includes 15 first-timers and nine returnees, one for an incredible fifth time plus others that have also been well placed.
Surprisingly, only two plaited representatives have qualified in the 13-strong pony division and for the first time two graded class one Irish Draughts will join nine other horses. Interestingly, six exhibits are following in the footsteps of either their dam or sire at this year’s final, one being the son of the 2014 champion Rendene Royal Charm.
Many of the class of 2023 are either home-bred or produced from home, or both. Consequently, it is thought by many that recognition of these categories with a special award at Birmingham is now long overdue.
Although this unique competition began way back in 1965, it remains as relevant today. I firmly believe that it is the glue that holds the present-day in-hand scene together. And I know of no other HOYS showing section that has been nicknamed after previous sponsors – the Fredericks, Lloyds, Creber, Templeton and Cuddy – who are remembered with such affection even now.
This competition has definitely created many wonderful memories as well as equine and human superstars over the years.
The two-time champions roll of honour includes Llanarth Flying Comet shown by Len Bigley, Treharne Tomboy, Rosevean Eagles Hill, Free Spirit and Colin Tibbey’s charge Pinewell Bucks Fizz. Hunting Eve, shown by John Rawding, triumphed three years in succession.
The Bigley family has qualified 53 times since 1974 (31 times with animals bearing their Llanarth prefix) – considered to be a record – as well as landing the championship accolade on three occasions.
A familiar face showing Welsh section As and Bs, Colin Tibbey is retiring after the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in November. He has captured three HOYS championships during his career and notched up his 25th qualifier at Bucks County this term.
Simon Charlesworth, 40, already has two HOYS led championship titles under his belt. He went through the card at the National Hunter Championship Show at Addington in August with a previously unshown three-year-old hunter, collecting his 42nd led ticket en route, and a memorial trophy celebrating John Rawding’s amazing five HOYS in-hand championships.
Consequently Simon has set himself a challenging goal before he considers retiring; to match or beat the Bigleys’ tally of 53 wins or John’s championship record of five – whichever comes first!
Esteemed and worthy judges
This year’s judges Sophie Henderson (née Waddilove) and Vanessa de Quincey bring a vast wealth of knowledge to this difficult task and are no strangers to competing and judging at HOYS. Sophie is married to renowned racehorse trainer Nicky Henderson and as a child won the coveted HOYS show pony of the year title in 1971 at Wembley aboard the famous 14.2hh Gems Signet.
Vanessa took the reserve hack of the year title on Moonstrike in 1966 aged 18 and went one better to capture the championship the following year. Her family has bred successful Welsh, part-bred and riding ponies under the Erimus prefix.
Let us not forget Michael Hendrie who was originally judging alongside Sophie but sadly died in July. His credentials were also exemplary as he produced and handled three winning pony broodmares in this contest – Ainsty Merry Maid (1989), Culross Maid Of Honour (1992) and Huttons Ambo Camelia in 1997.
Good luck to everyone in this final. Remember that wherever you are placed, it is such an achievement to be there as it remains one of the hardest HOYS competitions to qualify for, especially for pure-bred animals.
- How do you think the HOYS in-hand supreme final has changed over the years? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 5 October 2023
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