Horse of the Year Show holds so many different memories for different people; whether they are an inspired visitor who has come back as a competitor or even a visitor who has come back to the Show as an employee, which has happened in the past. However, for the recently appointed Events Director for Grandstand Media Ltd, her journey has been one which has spanned over 15 years and has included involvement in the Show from many different levels.
Emma Williams (nee Wardell) was an active member of Atherstone Hunt Branch of the Pony Club when she was growing up with her sister Rebecca in Leicestershire encouraged greatly by their mum;
“I started riding at the age of five with my first pony who was a grey Shetland named Pebbles. My passion for riding was passed on through my mum; she absolutely loved horses and being around them so it wasn’t long before my sister and I followed suit.”
In 2004, Emma was part of the Atherstone Hunt Branch of the Pony Club Mounted Games team who qualified to compete for the Prince Philip Cup at Horse of the Year Show. The Show had only recently moved from Wembley to Birmingham in 2002 so was relatively new to the area;
“When I competed at HOYS in 2004 I was joined by my younger sister Rebecca as part of the team and we were both so excited to be competing at Horse of the Years Show for the Prince Philip Cup. On reflection it was an unforgettable experience to have competed at HOYS and one which we all enjoyed hugely. The friendships formed between the teams during the week are remarkable and I am still friends with a number of competitors that we competed against all those years ago.”
Emma and her pony Ellie continued with their Pony Club Mounted Games career and together they went on to represent Great Britain for a competition at the infamous Aachen;
“Ellie was a typical grumpy mare! She would regularly try and bite people whenever she thought that she could get away with it and at home she was the boss, keeping the other ponies in line in the field. She was one-in-a-million pony who gave me some incredible opportunities.”
After graduating university in 2011, Emma joined the Grandstand Media Limited team as the Commercial Sales Assistant where she was responsible for liaising with the sponsors for Horse of the Year Show. In 2014, a promotion put Emma as Commercial Sales Manager for the next two years before migrating across to head up the Equestrian Team in 2016 fuelled by her interest in showing. With Emma’s broad range of experience across the business, she was deservedly appointed as Events Director after the 2017 Show. Emma is dedicated to ensuring the longevity of Horse of the Year Show and making sure that the Show evolves to maintain its high standards as well as being able to offer a Show which everyone enjoys being a part of.
“My memories from HOYS as a competitor, a visitor and for the last seven years as a member of staff are all completely different but equally as special. The year I competed there, the Household Cavalry were one of the displays and I remember how enthralled we were to see their standard of turn out as we passed them on the horse walk. I am delighted that they will be returning to the Show this year for the Show’s 70th Anniversary.
“Since working on the Show as an employee, I have seen many changes and there are too many great moments to mention them all. I will not forget the privilege of presenting the Equestrian of the Year Award last year in the Andrews Bowen International Arena – the award makes you appreciate how much every competitor, owner, volunteer and official puts into their season and it is an honour for Horse of the Year Show to acknowledge this. As Events Director I look forward to building a strong future for the Show, to improve accessibility for more people to come and enjoy everything the show has to offer and to keep our position as one of the UK’s leading equestrian sporting events.”
Atherstone Hunt Branch of the Pony Club will be returning to Horse of the Year Show once again this year along with their team trainer Janey who was on the team in 2004 with Emma and her sister Rebecca. The other five teams who have qualified for HOYS are; West Hants, Oakley Hunt West, Romney Marsh, Morpeth Hunt and North Warwickshire.