Magnus Nicholson is a leading show horse producer and judge who is based in North Yorkshire. He has won titles at all the major shows, including HOYS and the RIHS. He judged the SEIB racehorse to riding horse final at HOYS 2022.
It was an honour to judge at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for the first time in my career, alongside Richard Ramsay in the SEIB racehorse to riding horse championship. Our winner (First Receiver) gave me a lovely ride and for such a young horse – he is just a five-year-old – he went up and down the gears, went into the corners and was light in the hand.
The runner-up, Debt Of Honour, was also just a five-year-old. It was nice to see young horses succeeding throughout the week. I do sometimes wonder if showing is becoming a sport for older horses, due to the electric atmosphere found at HOYS, our major championship, but it was pleasing to see the up-and-comers taking it all in their strides.
On the whole, I was impressed with the quality presented. What a super class this championship is, providing racehorses with another life after racing. It goes from strength to strength each year, and we must remember it’s a huge ask for any horse to perform in such an environment. Our show horses have been competing all season in big grass arenas, so to expect them to come to HOYS and not react in the slightest is a big ask.
“They’re not police horses”
I am not a fan of the trend of sending horses out of the ring if they become slightly unsettled in the line-up. We’re judging adults on horses, not children on ponies, and we must remember that these are show horses, not police horses.
Being on the ground and backstage at HOYS this year offered me a completely new perspective on the show. It gave me a huge amount of respect for the organisers and I have tremendous admiration for Sandy Anderson and the Grandstand Media team for their work. As a competitor, it’s easy to grumble about minor things, such as shavings not arriving quickly enough or delayed entry times.
But while I was backstage, I realised just how many people it takes to get the show on the road. It was humbling and it opened my eyes. HOYS is our end-of-season party. While it’s intense and we want to have fun, we must remember how much goes into running it. Without it, we’d be lost and we must appreciate it more.
The general air of positivity at the NEC was refreshing. At the beginning of the season, showing appeared to be in a bad place. We were coming
out of the pandemic and everyone seemed to start out on a sour note.
This year at HOYS, everyone seemed to be in good spirits and it made me feel positive about the future of our discipline. There will always be issues that need to be ironed out, but it was nice to see that competitors were keen and motivated.
Many were looking for new rides for next season. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with lots of top show horses at the beginning of their careers. I’m thankful I don’t get horse envy. I enjoy watching them go on and do well with other people.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 13 October
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Credit: Peter Nixon
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