It seems like only yesterday it was summer and I was riding in a t-shirt — now I’m getting up in the pitch black and whinging about my feet turning to blocks of ice! Every year it’s the same. I just don’t know where the season goes.
It was a weird feeling to be stuck at work, rather than being at HOYS this year. With Pop contesting very few qualifiers in this, his first season, we didn’t manage to get that much sought-after ticket. And Jacob just missed out after being second in his final qualifier, having only done the last two.
So rather than being in Birmingham, I was at my computer constantly refreshing the results page on the HOYS website and manically texting friends to find out what was happening. I am not sure what the rest of the office thought as I kept making comments like: ‘Oh it wrong legged it then’, ‘what about the little coloured?’ and ‘how did Evo go?’.
It was great to be kept up-to-date with my friends’ results and I was pleased to see so many of them in the final line-ups — a huge achievement. A special mention must go to Justin Davies and Heidi Bennett from Popsters, who were Cuddy Champions with Ceri Fell’s beautiful mare Parvadean Delight — the first time a section C has won this amazing accolade.
So my final show of the season was to be the BSPS Heritage Champs — or at least that’s what I thought. We were taking both Pop and Jacob. The show was hosting the semi-finals, plus direct qualifiers for Olympia Horse Show for the first time.
The weekend started well, although very cold, with Pop winning the novice class against some lovely ponies. Pop hasn’t been out since Equifest and the time off has really allowed him to mature on — I was surprised how big and chunky he looks now.
The next class was the Olympia semi-finals, which both Jacob and Pop had qualified for, so I opted to ride Jacob and the fantastic Becki Penny agreed to ride Pop for me. It was a big class of top-class section Cs all ready to vie for the top three places, which would qualify them for Olympia.
On the go round we were nose-to-tail and I was really pleased with how Jacob behaved. As we were being pulled in I noticed Pop had been pulled in 4th, which was fantastic, but obviously just out of the three places. Jacob wasn’t pulled anywhere so I lined-up towards the end and started watching the shows.
All the ponies were lovely and far more seasoned than Pop, especially the ones above him. The judge told them to go out and impress her, and Becki and Pop did just that. Becki rode Pop to perfection to pull off a lovely show. In my eyes his show was fab, but I didn’t imagine that the top three would be moved around as they had all gone well too.
There was a long wait before I got to do my show on Jacob, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to even get him out of walk, but somehow he pulled off a very nice canter serpentine and a walk to canter. We had both done all we could and now just had to wait for the results.
As Jo left the ring from grooming for me, I asked her to try to keep my mum calm and remind her that stuff like qualifying for Olympia doesn’t happen to us, because I knew she would be madly crossing her fingers. Well I am delighted to say that I was proved wrong.
As they called the results out from 10th upwards, it kept getting closer to those magic three places but still Pop’s number wasn’t called. When it got to the top three and Pop hadn’t been pulled out I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement, but I didn’t dare believe it until they called the magic number 110. Not only had Pop qualified for Olympia, he had WON the class!
I still can’t quite believe it, but wild off-the-hills Pop has qualified for Olympia. As usual he took everything in his stride as we all celebrated and then he went on to stand reserve novice champion as well!
My thank you list is endless, but of course top of the list is Becki, who did the most fabulous job riding him, having only ever ridden him once before — I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled it off like her! Oliver Burchell and Jo Ashby, who have worked so hard with Pop to make him into the star he is now. Justin and Heidi from Popsters Stud who allowed me to have him — he will be the first Popsters pony to go to Olympia. And of course my mum, who has supported me the whole way, and the dude that is Pop.
So now my season hasn’t come to an end just yet, and me and Pop will get to party at Christmas with Santa! I guess dreams sometimes do come true…