There are many perks to being a Horse of the Year Show Ambassador.  One is waking up on the doorstep of the NEC and being treated to a lovely full English breakfast – which definitely set me up for a busy HOYS day.  I remember two years ago to get from the hotel to the venue there were mini buses put on to shuffle us back and forth, last year we found a quick route and decided it would be good exercise to walk.  This year there are golf buggies put on shuttle officials to and from the NEC.  As a result I highly doubt I will be walking this year, there is still a huge novelty to the golf buggy – even for someone nearing their mid-twenties – plus the drivers are so chatty and friendly, which really makes a great start to the morning.

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Once I arrived I headed into the Andrews Bowen Arena and up to watch the Brereton Small Hack of the Year.  Showing, is a discipline that I am constantly trying to learn more about.  I was introduced to showing at a young age as one of my friends competed to a high level.  I remember accompanying her to the Royal Highland Show one year when we were younger.  She won the class she was competing in and I still remember very vividly the whole emotion of the event and the amount of effort and dedication my friend and her whole family put into achieving that result.  Every time I watch showing I am taken aback by the perfection to which the horses are turned out. They all look absolutely stunning.  I know from having horses myself the time and effort it takes to get them competition ready.  In my opinion Showing takes it to a completely different standard – and it’s something that I absolutely love to watch.  However, one of my aims for the rest of the HOYS week is to watch as much Showing as I can as I want to improve my knowledge of the sport.

Following the conclusion of the Small Hack of the Year, I wandered through the trade stands to the Top Sec arena.  The Top Sec arena is somewhere, throughout the past two years I was at HOYS I haven’t been able to visit much. My time was mainly split between the Andrews Bowen arena and my horses’ stables.  As soon as I entered the Top Sec arena I was taken aback by the atmosphere.  The stands may be slightly smaller but they are absolutely packed and I think that only adds to the intensity.  I was watching The British Show Pony Society Mountain and Moorland Exc. 143cm Working Hunter Pony of the Year.  When the winner Lucy Eddie on Cashel Bay JJ was called the audience erupted and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  There is a unique atmosphere at the Top Sec Arena.

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As I made my way through the trade stands I found that I was just in time for a Parelli demonstration starting in a few minutes.  They were looking at different ways to help your horse feel more confident when things are behind them – making sure they are listening to you at the same time.  Obviously I look to what I can take home and use myself.  In vaulting there are often things going on behind the horses – usually children– as a lunger I need to make sure that my horse is confident enough to be aware of what is going on around him but that he is ultimately listening and focussed on me. I will be trying the technique they used for this on my horses when I get home.  I hope to catch more Parelli demonstrations as there are a lot of techniques I believe are applicable to a range of different Equestrian sports. However I had to leave the demonstration as I wanted to catch the side saddle championship.  I am constantly in awe of the side saddle riders, the balance that these riders have is unbelievable, and as I watch them I feel transported to a different era.  They exude elegance and it was a joy to watch.

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It has been so great to have the first couple of days at HOYS to acclimatise myself again and I have been treated to an array of Equestrian sports with competitors who are at the very top of what they do.  The level of talent was apparent in the Leading Pony Showjumper of the Year.  The height of the jumps and the speed the riders make their way round the course is crazy, especially considering the age of some of these riders.  I have a huge respect for the showjumpers in the class they put on great final for those of us in the audience.

One of my big aims for the day was to catch the two displays at HOYS this year.  Firstly I caught the musical drive of the heavy horses.  The grace of these big horses as they covered the whole of the Andrews Bowen arena was great to watch – I had never seen anything like it.  I think that one of my absolutely favourite things about HOYS is that you are introduced to a variety of different displays that you have never seen before.  That evening I was lucky to catch the second display this year Gilles Fortier ‘Vulcanium – Dreams of Fire’.  I was amazed.  It combined everything that I love, horses, acrobatics and fire.  It was mind-blowing.  The horsemanship of these riders is absolutely amazing and the trust the horses have in them is evident.  While the riders are twirling fire above their heads the horses still fulfil every command asked of them.  The whole display is a spectacle, from the music to the lighting; it is like watching an action film.  The production is amazing and I am going to make a determined effort to watch the performance as many times as I can. 

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My day was rounded of by an interview with Impact Media.  It was great to discuss the experience of being at the Horse of The Year show.  However, I still find it hard to put into words what it feels like to be a HOYS ambassador.  The show for me is a coming together of the absolute best of a range of equestrian disciplines and it’s also a show case for world class displays.  The atmosphere at HOYS is hard to put into words. As an audience member you go round every corner with the scurry drivers, over every jump with the jumpers and you feel part of a team when you watch the pony club games.  The Horse of the Year show in my eyes is a party celebrating all aspects of Equestrianism and as a spectator at HOYS you become a major part of the atmosphere that makes the Horse of the Year Show so special.  

 

Hannah Eccles

HOYS Ambassador