As I sit down to write my thoughts on the Horse of the Year Show, I can’t quite believe how fast it has gone by. It saddens me that the arena is now being taken down, but I am left with memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. From events I have witnessed, to meeting some of the most welcoming and interesting people I have ever come across. There are so many aspects of HOYS that I will take away with me and reminisce about for years to come.
Before I get carried away rounding up what was truly an amazing week at the Horse of The Year Show. I firstly feel the need to share my perspective on what turned out to be an unbelievable Sunday.
I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with Virginia Osborne and her horse Danny right after their victory in the British Ridden Heavy Horse Championship. This is the first time the class had been held at HOYS. It was an honour to witness her special moment and to be allowed the chance to chat with her after. There was so much emotion surrounding her win and she had been through such a journey to qualify for HOYS. It was very special to be a spectator for this historic victory. Virginia and Danny’s bond just reinforced the undefinable relationship between horse and rider.
After, I also got to meet some of the arena party who are such an important part of HOYS, ensuring the show runs seamlessly from one class to the next. Therefore I want to give a big thanks to the Reaseheath College arena party. Later I had the privilege to talk to Nicola Tyler from Top Spec, and Katy Mickle was kind enough to interview with me. I love the fact that they sponsored the Top Spec arena in order to give back to the whole showing community.
When I was five years old my mum and dad made the decision to buy a pony for my brother, sister and I to share. Her name was Toni and she was a beautiful 12.2 pony who we love and still loan out to this day. She gave us our first equestrian memories, and taught us how to trust and respect horses. She gave us confidence and set us on our way in the equestrian world. At the age of seven just before my eighth birthday (my parents had set an age limit on when I could start vaulting) I asked Santa if I could become a vaulter. I was a little girl with huge dreams and aspirations. This weekend a dream was realised for me that I had never even allowed myself to imagine. On Sunday morning as I sat to write down my thoughts on the events that had unfolded the day before I was asked if I would present the trophy to the winner of the International Show Jumping – Zinc Management Speed Horse of the Year.
That afternoon, after being treated to a delicious meal in hospitality, where the view of the Andrews Bowen International Arena is incredible and the service is amazing. We watched the afternoon performance from the best seats in the house. I tucked into my soup, salmon and chocolate tart, whilst being totally captivated by the HOYS entertainment. Gilles Fortier once again treated us to the visual experience that is their show ‘Vulcanium – Dreams of Fire’. Later we were treated once again to the Pony Club Mounted Games – as the teams competed to make it to the final. I love that you are always given new facts and information, like the fact the flag they use to commence the Pony Club Mounted Games has been used since 1957.
To round off the daytime performance it was time for the Zinc Management Speed Horse of the Year, where the horses and riders attack the course at full throttle. After a gripping event, I made my way to the side-lines to present a hugely deserving Shane Breen with the trophy. As I stepped into the arena, it dawned on me that as that young girl who played about with her pony, never did I imagine that I would be at the Horse of the Year Show about to present the trophy to Shane Breen who had just won the Speed Horse of the Year – unbelievable. It was an unforgettable experience and one that I am truly thankful for.
The HOYS spirit is as a result of all the people who work so hard to make the show a success. Genuinely this week at HOYS I have been overwhelmed by how friendly the whole team have been. The past two years I have been surrounded by my team mates who I have seen week in week out for a number of years. This year returning to HOYS, I was initially a little apprehensive to be stepping out on my own, without the safety of my vaulting world. As a result I have met so many interesting people from all aspects of the show. Officials, waiting staff, commentators and security: even when incredibly busy people make the time to get to know each other. This sense of community contributes to the unique HOYS experience.
It was bitter sweet to get ready to watch the Sunday evening performance. Once again I was excited to watch what was in store, yet sad that it would be over for another year. To get us into the party spirit, throughout the night the West End cast of Mamma Mia had everyone dancing in their seats and singing along, as they treated us to a number of performances from the hit musical.
We were then treated to the prestigious Leading Show Jumper of the Year. It came down to the tightest of finishes with Cian O’Connor beating John Whitaker to the title by 0.04 seconds. It is an honour to watch John every time he enters the arena and I am a huge fan of Cian – I have been for a long time. It was a nail biting final and a great way to finish of the show jumping at HOYS 2016. I am still in awe that I got to witness so much incredible show jumping throughout the week.
It was also perfectly rounded off by honouring Nick Skelton and Big Star. It was great to recognise what the Olympic Champion pairing have done for Equestrian Sports. They received a more than deserving standing ovation as they took a lap of honour around the arena. It was extremely touching to hear from Nick earlier in the night when he was presented by Sandy Anderson with the Equestrian of the Year Award for 2016.
As the evening came to a close with the final parade, and the famous Ode to the Horse was recited for another year, I took a moment to appreciate what has been an amazing showcase for equestrianism. I want to give a special mention to the horses and ponies who provide us so much joy. The fact that I have had the honour to be associated with such an iconic event, that brings together all aspects of the horse world, makes me more than proud. I come from a small equestrian discipline, but I feel part of the wider equestrian family.
The arena will be dismantled now for another year and the competitors and their horses will return to their homes. However, we will have memories that will stay with us for a lifetime of an incredible Horse of the Year Show 2016.