“My first job was to be a carrot lady for the horses during prize giving” – Hannah Eccles catches up with HOYS Official Val Turner

“My first job was to be a carrot lady for the horses during prize giving” – Hannah Eccles catches up with HOYS Official Val Turner

As we build up to Horse of the Year Show we thought what better way to celebrate 70 years than to share some of the stories behind the people who have been at the heart of the show for many years…..

From Carrots to Controller

This month we bring you Val Turner who has been involved with Horse of the Year Show for over 20 years – an incredible achievement.  Val is the International Arena Controller and first started officiating at the show in 1995 after asking Jon Doney (JD) who was running the show at the time if she could have a job. The path to officiating stemmed from a chance incident and encounter with Geoff Billington.

“My first job was to be a carrot lady for the horses during prize giving…unfortunately on my very first night in the role, when I got to Geoff Billington in the presentation I asked him if he would like a carrot too.  He proceeded to pick me up from his horse by my neck and landed me in a pile on the floor with carrots everywhere.”

The faux pas of being decked out to the nines for the gala evening and ending up in a heap on the ground earned her a summoning from a furious JD resulting in a reallocation into the control area where she was told to ‘sit down’.

“The phone rang in control and I was told to answer it and that is how I got my first job in control. I was then delegated to the commentators to keep their running order of the placings during the classes and answer the phone.”

However, the next year proved pivotal.

“I guess it was the next year when I was given the job of assistant to Patrick Daniel, who was controller at the time.  I worked with him for 4 or 5 years before he retired and I took over.”

Over the past 20 years Val has witnessed many incredible moments.  One memory that stands out from the rest, highlights the sheer excitement and unforgettable life long memories that HOYS provides.

“Probably my most memorable moment was when my best friend’s horse Welham won the Grand Prix with John Whitaker.  I was so excited I leapt up in the air whooping and clapping – I was told to sit down immediately. At this time Mike Tucker was giving it a huge build up on the commentary.  I sat down, missed the chair and finished up with my legs in the air underneath the table right in front of Mike.”

“He was rendered speechless and had to switch his microphone off.  He always remembered that moment and still liked to wind me up over it every time I worked with him – oh how I will miss him!”

Over the 20 odd years Val has seen the show grow and develop, most notably the biggest changes she has witnessed coming on the production side, with the lighting and the music making the show the spectacle it is today.

As International Arena Controller, Val ensures the smooth running of the Andrews Bowen International Arena. Ever wondered one of the secrets that helps the show run so slickly? The answer… …Val.

“My job is keeping the show running strictly to time. There is a huge team effort among the course builders, collecting ring, show stewards, production, the judges, commentators and myself.”

A usual day at HOYS for Val starts off at 9:30am with the morning meeting for all the lead officials and Grandstand Media staff.  Then the day is non-stop until the show finishes at 11pm – a feat repeated every day of the shows run.  Val has an assistant to aid this vital job, who sits in control from 7am to the end of everyday helping to ensure the show’s smooth running.

And it is imperative that the show runs to time. “The show cannot run after 11pm or it gets into large penalties.”

This year marks the celebratory 70th anniversary year and with extra displays provides Val with even greater challenges, but a challenge she relishes. However most importantly, one of the main things she is really looking forward to…..“Working with all my mates.”

It is an honour to hear Val’s inspirational HOYS story – I love more than anything hearing how different people came to be involved with the show and how her involvement has spanned more than 20 years.  When you go to HOYS you are swept away by the spectacle…but there are so many people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the show all come together.  And the incentive… memories, moments and friendships!


April Update from me

The past few weeks have been hectic but so enjoyable.  I was honoured to receive the Horse Scotland Performance Coach of the Year award for 2018 and to once again have the privilege of commentating for the FEI on the FEI World Cup Vaulting final in Dortmund.  I went with my vaulters to their first international competition of the year in Saumur, France and team GB vaulters posted great results. Club wise, after a last minute horse change, my junior pas de deux finished 2nd and gained a qualification score for the Junior Europeans later in the year.  An incredible achievement given their ages – one of the vaulters is a mere 13 years old.  Our junior team finished 3rd. I continue to be blown away by their improvement and our team horse Jack who posted a whopping 8.2 in the second round freestyle. I lunged Tyke for an American Pas de deux who put on an amazing performance to win their 2* senior PDD class.

As for me…I have a HOYS display to prepare for – the countdown is on.  My horses are fully ready having been competing with my club kids and my schedule right now is a mix of fitness and barrel so I can match my impressive horses and put on our best display possible. If not got your tickets yet, what are you waiting for?

Take a look at Hannah’s latest video here: https://youtu.be/hBdX3OXAwqQ

HOYS Ambassador

Hannah Eccles

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