The day of Horse of the Year Show finally dawned and, as usual the day before HOYS, I was at work. So, as everyone else left in the morning in their horseboxes for Birmingham, me and my mum were both working hard to try and get everything done and away in time to get up there to do the evening ride in.
Also as usual, we got stuck on the motorway and sat in our car wondering whether we would get up there in time, but luckily Jacob’s warm up wasn’t until 7:15pm. Driving into HOYS always gives me the same emotions, sheer excitement and sheer dread — there really is nothing like it.
Jacob had already gone up earlier with Oliver Burchell and the whole team were all settled when we arrived. I saw Justin, Jacob’s breeder, in the queue for wristbands and he came along to watch him in the evening warm-up. The warm-up was carnage with ponies everywhere and I was really thrilled with how Jacob coped with his first time there. He didn’t look at a thing and it was nice to ride him when he was actually lively for once!
After a good work out we put him to bed for the night before heading to Justin’s lorry for a few drinks. At 11:30pm we made it to our hotel and sat in bed with pizza going through the catalogue of the classes. The nerves were really setting in hearing the calibre of ponies in the class, but we had a good laugh when we realised Jacob was the smallest in the class by 4cms!
The next day dawned and we were up early to go and watch our friend Lauren Kingston in the connemara class. As I sat down in the arena I had that lovely feeling you only get at HOYS and as the first winner did their lap of honour to the music, the hair on my arms was standing up and I actually felt a little tear in my eye. It really is hard to explain that HOYS feeling.
Jacob was in the class at 1:15pm so I had a fair wait watching my friends compete and I felt okay. At midday I went to warm up and was thrilled with the way he was going, so after 20 minutes we headed down to the arena. He looked fantastic — both Ollie and Mandy had worked so hard and I wanted to go out and do everyone proud. I had a little tear as I went into the class but I pulled myself together to go in first so Jacob didn’t get excited following the other. I needn’t have worried, as he was so relaxed. We stayed in to do our show first and the atmosphere was electric. Jacob did a really nice show and I returned to the line with my heart thumping in my chest, but a big sense of relief. Next up was the in-hand, which is the easy part for us. Jacob stood like the pro he is and I ran as fast as I could!
After everyone finished we all headed back into the ring — looking down the line up, any one of those qualified ponies could have won the class and I was just hoping to stay in for the lap of honour. I was also hoping Jacob would keep his feet on the ground as the numbers were called. As I stood in the line the judges walked down looking for numbers on equal points — they called my number out and came over to look at Jacob. That had my heart jumping, as I thought it meant I was likely to be in the top 11.
The 11 were called forward and they included my number, 609. I had seen the pony I was on equal marks with so, as they started the placings in reverse order, I knew I would be either side of it. The pony was called forward 9th – I wasn’t 8th which meant I was 10th. Just outside a placed rosette and the third time at HOYS I have tied for 9th, each time ending up 10th!
I was so thrilled to be in the top 11 and to get to do our final lap of honour was brilliant. Jacob had been a complete star the whole day and as we cantered out I thought how lucky I am to have such a great pony. As we reached the top corner of the arena Jacob started to get a little excited as he can do on his lap of honour, so I gave him a little check back and with that he launched himself into the air and gave the most almighty buck! As we came back down I couldn’t help but laugh — it could not be more typical of Jacob, he has such a character and it was if he said, “I have been so good I need them to remember me by something”. Always the diva.
Jacob was the last pony Ollie had in that day, so after riding Jacob bareback around the stable block with a haynet on his back (I was trying out for the prince Philip cup teams and trying to find a stable for him) we all congregated for drinks and food and to watch the championship in the evening performance. I had such a great time at HOYS, it was a show I had been dreading but I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t believe it is all over — now to start aiming for next year…