I was recently asked to become the new Horse of the Year Show ambassador. It is such an honour to be associated with such an amazing show, so many people work hard with their horses throughout the year with the hope of qualifying for such a great event. Then there are the people who work extremely hard to make the show run smoothly so that we can all have the relaxing experience we get at the Horse of the Year Show. I have personally heard of HOYS for years through my friends who rode. However, my first experience of HOYS was two years ago. My sister and I had just come off the back of our best ever result at the World Equestrian Games in Equestrian Vaulting. We were then honoured to be asked to do a display in the finale on the Sunday night of HOYS and we were invited down as guests of the show to enjoy the whole weekend.
We were asked if we were able to do five displays over the whole weekend so having all of the horses, vaulters and equipment we put together our first show not really knowing what to expect. We all came out of those performances with the biggest buzz and I think for us all performing at HOYS is up there with our greatest career highlights. We all had the best time that weekend doing our display in front of a great audience that really got involved, shopping in the stands, watching whenever we could amazed at the whole event and we even got the chance to spend some time in hospitality when we felt really spoilt.
If that wasn’t enough the next year we were invited back for the full week – where we created even more memories. Not only in the time we spent at HOYS but also the time we spent preparing for the show together, deciding what type of performance we wanted to put on for the audience. I think we all felt at home in the HOYS arena and the feeling we got from those shows had definitely stayed with us.
This year I am here in a completely new role as an ambassador for HOYS and while I absolutely loved the last two years, I am also really looking forward to being able to watch the whole show and not having to worry about having to go get everything ready or having to wear my catsuit and full performance make up and hair – much more chilled this year.
My HOYS adventure started with a five hour drive from my home in Scotland. I arrived at the Horse of the Year Show around mid afternoon. I have to admit it was very strange travelling down on my own – the past two years I had travelled down with my horses in the lorry where once we arrived I was busying unpacking and settling the horses into their new stables. This year was a lot quieter. However, from the moment I arrived it hit me again the scale of the event and how many people it takes for an event of this magnitude to run smoothly. Straight away I was met with the most helpful security people all of who kept me right as I tried to navigate myself into the show.
Once I was in and accredited I made my way to watch the international riders trot up. There were so many beautiful horses – a lot of whom I wouldn’t mind taking home for myself!
I then made my way to the Andrews Bowen International Arena which continues to amaze me. There, I was able to watch the Connolly’s Red Mills Senior Newcomer Championship which was a great event to get me back into the HOYS spirit. It cumulated in a nail biting jump off and I was so happy I had made it in time to watch the class. Whilst sitting in the audience I envied the riders as I remembered the electric feeling of being in that arena, under those incredible lights. However, throughout the jump off I was sat right on the edge of my seat going over every jump with the riders I remembered how big a part the HOYS audience is in creating that electric atmosphere.
After settling into my hotel, I had some time for a quick wander round some of the stands – which was lucky as if I had spent anymore time there my card would have had a good work out. It was definitely an exercise in self control. There are so many beautiful things I can’t wait for a proper shopping spree. Last years purchases of HOYS merchandise and a beautiful horse gold ring have made it down to the show with me again this year.
By the time I made it up to the stands I was disappointed as I just missed watching the scurry drivers – which I absolutely love to watch but I am sure I will get plenty more opportunity to see over the next few days. However, I did see one of my favourite events at HOYS the Virbac 3D Worming Pony Club Mounted Games. I love the energy, teamwork and all around fun of the mounted games. Doing the display the last couple of years there was always a great atmosphere around the games team and the supporters who accompany them. As a youngster I shared a pony with my brother and sister and alongside a couple of our friends used to do games that our instructor set up for us with stuff that was lying about on our farm. I still have the best memories of this – and my face generally being covered in icing auger from trying to pick up jelly babies with my mouth whilst on my pony. Unfortunately, I was never a member of the pony club. While I had an amazing time with my friends and my pony if I could go back and do pony club I absolutely would. The kids and their ponies all look like they are having the most amazing time and as a result that just feeds into the audience.
After a long journey and a hectic afternoon I decided it would be good to have an early night. I can’t wait for the rest of the week there are so many amazing events to catch and I can’t wait to watch the displays this year and get to enjoy them as a spectator.