I’ve been back from HOYS a couple of days and both Fergus and I are still on a massive high after our SEIB Search for a Star experience. I loved every minute of it and had so much support from family and friends, who sent lovely texts and cards, as well as bending over backwards to help.
We drove up from West Sussex on Tuesday through the pouring rain, but we still made good time. On arrival we had our vaccination cards checked, parked up the lorry, collected our stable and bridle number, and got Fergus settled in.
Then we walked down to the arena to get our bearings, which took about 20mins. I didn’t expect it to be quite such a long walk! It took a lot less when I rode Fergus down there for our exercise slot in the evening. Originally we were due to exercise very early on Wednesday morning but it got changed, which saved me from a very early start!
Fergus marched his way down to the arena and was very well behaved — he was on the bit and very collected in his way of going so I felt quite confident for our class the following afternoon. But unfortunately things didn’t go quite according to plan, as you will see!
It chucked it down overnight and most of the stables were flooded out. Normally Fergus lays down at night, but he clearly didn’t fancy sleeping on his wet bed! We sorted out his stable and then had some time to kill before getting ready so we went and did a bit of shopping and had a bite to eat. Actually I didn’t eat much as the butterflies had started by that point! I wasn’t really nervous, just really excited that the time had come.
I took him down to the small warm up area early to give him a chance to get used to the atmosphere in the ring and he felt relaxed until the class before came to an end and there was a huge round of applause. He was wearing ear plugs and had had a complete tube of calmer, but that just set him alight and I knew I was going to have my hands full.
We went into the arena and he was quite good in the walk and trot, but strong in the canter. When it came to gallop I thought ‘sod it – if I can’t pull up then I can’t pull up’ and really let him fly. He gave a fantastic gallop and he let me stop him at the end so I was really pleased with that. He showed well in hand, but he really wanted to get on with his work when Claire Oliver rode him and he wouldn’t settle on to the bit for her — little bugger!
The judges said plenty of nice things about him. Marjorie Ramsey commented on how well he was turned out saying “this horse doesn’t have a hair out of place”, while Robert Oliver praised his bone and clean legs. We weren’t placed, but we still got our HOYS rosette to take home.
There was great camaraderie between the competitors, which made the whole experience extra special. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the Search for a Star competitors who qualified for HOYS and to commiserate with the girl whose horse reared after being called in first for the riding club show horse class. She must have been distraught to lose the class after coming so close to winning.
Overall it was an absolutely fantastic experience and I’ve come away smiling. We may not have been placed, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing and wouldn’t swap Fergus for the world.