Updated: Mar 15, 2019
October. What does it mean to the showing world? One thing – Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). It is the culmination of a season of hard work; early mornings, late evenings, more products than you could think possible… we are all working towards one thing. The golden ticket to Birmingham.
I’ve never competed in the ring at HOYS myself, but I love nothing more than being part of a team who all work together to get the horse and rider looking their best when they walk through that curtain and into the ring. I spent a good 10 years as a show groom, working behind the scenes covered in chalk, oil, black make-up and sparkle sprays and each year at HOYS was the best week of the season.
My years of showing have been instrumental in my work as an Equine Therapist, and now my Veterinary Physiotherapy studies. I have spent many hours watching horses be stood and trotted up to assess conformation and movement, so I have developed a relatively good eye over the years. Not only do we have in-hand classes to watch, each ridden class also has what is known as the ‘conformation’ section. Each horse is assessed and then this is taken into consideration along with the ride or display. Assessing conformation and movement is a key part of my job, so I certainly owe a lot to my passion for showing.
HOYS, along with Royal Windsor, is my favourite show of the season. There’s just something about it that makes it special, there’s nothing like going to bed at gone 11pm after putting the horses to bed after evening exercise, before getting up at around 2.30/3am to feed before early morning exercise, or the 15-minute walk from the stables to the arena. Everyone walking around in the dead of night, half asleep, but all working towards the same thing. OK, I know I’m not really selling it, but I promise, it’s the best. Each year I am so grateful to be able to be a part of it, especially since I am still able to attend with my wonderful show team, Team Colosso, despite not having worked for them as a show groom for 3 years! I mean, they even took me when my bones were all still in pieces, armed with my mobility scooter, crutches and armour. That week was an emotional one, there were a fair few panic attacks, a LOT of tears (poor Nat and Colin who were by my side all week!) but we did have a win with the Colosso Family’s small hunter Chantilly Bojangles, expertly piloted by Robert Walker.
I have been part of Team Colosso for a number of years, and I will never forget the pride I felt when I got to watch Rae (who is essentially a little sister) compete at HOYS for the very first time, on her intermediate show hunter (ISH), Exploitation, as the youngest rider to have ever qualified on an ISH. Many years of blood, sweat and tears went into that day and I can’t really describe the emotion. What I soon came to realise is that it doesn’t change, every time Rae steps into that ring, I am so proud of her, and the whole team.
Another moment that I will never forget is the first Team Colosso HOYS win that I was lucky enough to witness. Their coloured mare Shear Impulse (Tia) had won her class on the Sunday morning, going on to take champion shortly afterwards. I have such a soft spot for this lovely mare. The total shock at hearing her number being called out is something that will stay with me forever. It was such a beautiful moment, to see her trotting down that famous centre line under the spotlight, especially as the breeder of the pony who was called reserve, a local friend, was sitting behind us; to say we celebrated is an understatement!
I’m sure many people would think we are crazy, the hours and hours of effort that are put in throughout the season, all to stay in a car park in Birmingham for a week to trot round together to compete for a piece of ribbon and a sash? Sounds crazy doesn’t it… but I would not change it for the world.