There really is nothing like Horse of the Year Show and this year reaffirmed that for me. But right now I feel completely shattered after heading straight back to work following a long day and half at HOYS.
Last week my body finally gave in to one of the illnesses going round and I found myself feeling pretty off colour — not what was needed for the most important week of the year. On Tuesday, after a quick trip to the doctors and the all clear, Mum and I made our way up to the NEC, via a quick detour to the Popsters Stud.
After seeing Jacob and having lots of kisses, Justin gave us a quick tour round the fields. I’ve never seen so many section Cs in all my life! We saw foals, yearlings, two-year-olds and a very nice four-year-old… I also got to see the all important Jacob babies and swoon over them all. It was lovely to see the new crop and think that in a few years time some of them could be competing at HOYS, just like Jacob’s son, Popsters Roccoco, was this year.
Birmingham here we come
After finally tearing ourselves away, we arrived at a very wet NEC ready to take Windy (the Dartmoor, pictured above) down for a practise in the arena. Now as Windy is not too keen on people in his personal space, I fully expected to have a very excitable working in, but I couldn’t have been much more wrong. After an initial panic and some spookiness when we first went in, Windy settled down really well.
After having a quick toastie for dinner (our standard HOYS diet!) we popped off to have some drinks with friends who were competiting at HOYS for the first time in the section A class. As Windy had an early morning work in, Mum and I headed off to the hotel to get some sleep. Unfortunately the people in the room next door decided they were in the mood for a party, so after only a couple of hours sleep, it was time to get up again!
The one thing I really find about HOYS is you forget the time — it feels like it is midday, yet when you look at your watch it isn’t even 10am. After working in at 5:15am, grabbing some quick breakfast and sitting down to watch the connie class, I was sure it must be lunch time, not 7am in the morning. Being in the fourth class in this year, I got to watch the Connemaras and most of the hairies which was really nice. It was also useful as the format had changed a little, so it was good to organise tactics early on!
The time has come
At 9:15am I was on board and ready to head down to the ring. Windy was still surprising me with how calm he was and when we entered the ring at 9:50am with ‘Good Luck’s ringing in our ears, I felt remarkably relaxed.
Windy didn’t bat an eyelid as we entered through the tunnel and walked round like he had done it all is life — not that he had only been back showing for only a few months. I managed to luckily come out in the first lot so I got to do my show first — this suited Windy as he can be cold backed.
After a good go round, we positioned ourselves in the line-up and got ready for our show. The nerves began to kick in and I could feel my collar getting tighter and tighter. Please let it go alright I thought, I need to do everyone proud. Then I was out in front of the judge, then I was trotting, into canter, thinking forward all the time, change of rein with no spook, I waited for our second canter, right lead, lazy extension, nice trot walk salute and that was it. Breathe. It was over. In a flash.
Time to strip
Next thing I was outside waiting to do my strip, which is the worse bit. Seeing everyone and discussing the show, what you should have done, what you could have done, what you wished you had done. Windy did a lovely in-hand so now I could only hope to make it into the magic 11 and get to do a lap of honour.
For me this is by far the most nerve wracking bit — just waiting for your number to be called. They started low, a lot of low numbers being called, then numbers closer to mine and then mine. As I walked forward I know I had a huge big grin on my face. Yes top 11, that’s all I wanted this year — the rest was in the lap of the gods as my mum always says.
Here we go again in reverse order, 9th, 8th, 7th and then me. Sixth. Windy only went and got sixth place. I was thrilled to say the least. Third top Dartmoor and the youngest pony in the class, which was full with top quality beautiful ponies. Most importantly Windy behaved beautifully, standing like a rock and not even getting a little tense — how far this pony has come in such a short time. He really is a little star.
Ready for round two
With Windy’s class over, there was lots of chatting and congratulating (plus a glass or two of fizz!), then I headed off to work in Chief, who had come up that morning. He looked fantastic and I felt so lucky to be riding him. Having not had his customary lunge he was a little ‘perky’ to begin with, but after a few good canters we settled into our rhythm and then headed down to the ring.
Weirdly Chief felt far more relaxed in the indoor arena than the outdoor one. So here we were again, heading back into the arena… this time Chief was a little more lively than Windy and had a bit of a jog in the walk. I managed to get into the first half again to do my show, and after going round with the others Chief began to settle and find his stride. As we came out to do our show I could just feel him start to tense a little and knew I would need to sit a little quiet.
Our show started fine, but as I came across the middle I could feel Chiefy start to tense through his back. I tried my hardest but as we went into canter I felt him start to hump — I did my best to ride through it and crossed my fingers it didn’t look too bad!
Again we managed a good in-hand and I knew he looked a picture. As we headed back into the arena for the results I was hoping to make the top 11 but I did think that we might be out of luck. Crossing my fingers, I couldn’t believe it when my number got called forward — I was hoping his owners would be pleased. When the countdown reached sixth place and I hadn’t been called forward, I knew I wasn’t placed but I was still thrilled to be in the top 11. I actually got called forward into 10th place, which was really good, and we enjoyed every moment of our lap of honour — Chief really went for it!
Over in a flash
And then that was it. It was over again for another year. That show you try so hard for all year was over in a flash! It felt very odd coming out the arena and not having a section C to ride — the class I have been in for so long — yet I really enjoyed just watching it this year.
What can I say — what a brilliant HOYS. I throughly enjoyed every moment of it and both ponies were stars. Lots of my friends did well and there was a really lovely sense of community at HOYS this year &mdash just how showing should be. I cannot thank the owners enough; Lynda for trusting me with Windy and the Moelview Stud for giving me the opportunity to ride such a lovely section B. Both ponies in my opinion are lovely true breed types and I feel very lucky to have ridden them.
Thanks, of course, to Rowfantina Stud for all their hard work and making HOYS brilliant fun, and of course to my Mum, the chaffeur, the cook, the cleaner, my secretary and the person I could never do without.
I would like to say it’s now time for a rest, but with Heritage still to aim for, there is no rest for the wicked!
Don’t miss our full report on all the action from Horse of the Year Show in next Thursday’s magazine, on sale 11 October, 2012