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‘Displaying owes our unsung heroes a debt of gratitude’

  • In her latest column, native pony specialist Rebecca Penny reflects on Horse of the Year Show, unfortunate clashes, and freak accidents…

    As last month’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) generally closes the curtains on most people’s showing year, some of us will look forward to a winter of rest while others will already be starting the hard work on new combinations for 2023.

    While HOYS is an exhausting show for everyone behind the scenes with anti-social hours and a lot of walking, there is a truly unique atmosphere that makes it worthwhile.

    It’s fair to say some of the unsung heroes of HOYS are most certainly the ring stewards. They work extremely long hours under immense pressure, yet are always on hand and willing to help with horses that become slightly unsettled, or to reassure children who are daunted by the occasion. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude, not only at this one show, but also over the course of the year. Without these people, it would be impossible to run events.

    As always, HOYS can throw up some surprise results, but in general it’s where great talent can also emerge.

    One of my personal highlights undoubtedly was watching the lightweight show hunter, View Point, lift the supreme horse title before bowing out at the very top of his game. I feel it is an admirable decision from both his owner, Jill Day, and his producer, Robert Walker, who have campaigned him so successfully over the years. I’m sure it will be a long time before we see another horse like him grace the showing circuit.

    Another highlight was seeing talented young rider Lola Carabine, 10, shine. She showed real versatility and gave a number of outstanding performances over the course of the week to lift the show pony championship, the inaugural junior mountain and moorland working hunter pony title and some other top places on other rides. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

    Lola Carabine, aged 10, gave a number of outstanding performances at this year’s HOYS, including with the overall children’s riding pony champion Ardenhall Blenheim.

    Disappointing clashes

    In this time of economic uncertainty, it was great to see stock presented at last month’s Welsh Pony and Cob Society autumn sale (14–16 October) in such demand, with many exhibits fetching high prices. It’s a shame the sale date always seems to clash with the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage championships show, which is held over the same weekend.

    These sales are a great opportunity for ridden enthusiasts to shop for future prospects and winter projects, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find, especially now some of our best blood is heading overseas. I’m sure many of us would love the opportunity to attend both events.

    Freak accidents

    While I was at the BSPS Heritage championships, an unfortunate situation occurred in one of the London International supreme Heritage semi-final classes, in which the ring fence was suddenly blown over during one combination’s individual show, resulting in the rider falling from the pony.

    The rules state that any fall of horse or rider results in instant disqualification, and this was adhered to on the day, yet a number of the riders in the line agreed that it could have happened to any of us. Being made to leave the ring was very disappointing for the rider, and I really did feel for the combination.

    It begs the question of what the procedure should be in the case of a freak incident like this, where nobody is at fault?

    ● Have you experienced an unfortunate event in the ring and consequently been disqualified? Write to us at

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 November

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