Top show horse producer Robert Walker on why the top showing show never loses its sparkle
We’ve just about come back down to earth after the 2022 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and what a show it was for our sport. My team and I had a particularly fantastic year, finishing with View Point (Sean) winning the supreme horse title for the second time, before he was retired from the show ring.
I was asked several times ahead of the show if I felt the pressure returning to HOYS with him this year and I definitely did. I was apprehensive as I knew in my heart that the fairytale would come to an end at some point, but I’m glad we got to draw the curtain on our terms.
I took a risk asking Sean for a flying change in the supreme pre-judging, aiming to keep the judges entertained with a short, sharp show as requested. The time frame is so short and I knew I had to pull something out of the bag. Thankfully, Sean was listening to me and he always tries to win the class by a country mile.
He’s been one of my best show horses and he’s always singing on the edge, just above tipping point, but that’s why he’s done as well as he has done. He’ll now have a happy retirement on the hunt field.
Last year when HOYS announced that they were to change the working-in structure to run slots for each class, instead of allowing everyone to ride together, many of us reacted negatively. Those of us with a string of horses were worried that we wouldn’t be able to fit everyone in. However, I feel we may have overreacted slightly, as this year everyone seemed to be comfortable with this format.
We knew our slot times and got on with the job. While I might be happy to ride round with 50 others, it only takes one anxious horse or a nervous rider for things to go awry. This new format of only having 20 or so horses in the arena at one time is definitely safer and the stewards seem more relaxed now while we’re exercising. Everyone seemed to follow the rules and there was a chilled atmosphere in both the pony and horse warm-up rings.
I take my hat off to HOYS organisers Grandstand Media. When you take a moment actually to look at the venue it’s baffling even to consider what goes into running it. The team in the office are always great to deal with, despite the huge levels of stress they will be under.
Even though we pay a substantial amount of money to go there, it’s a show like no other and is an utterly spectacular event which could not be replicated at a normal show venue. I always come home with HOYS flu after little sleep, but it’s the most amazing time and I can’t wait to go back again next year.
The game never stops
After the adrenaline rush of HOYS begins to fade, it’s time to look ahead to next season. We’re already working the young horses and while I’m doing so, I wonder which ones will be the next stars of the ring.
The winters are incredibly short these days, as we all aim to have a few outings under our belts ahead of Royal Windsor in May. While we’re all ready for a break, albeit a short one, producing is a constant cycle as the new season is waiting for us around the corner.
● Did you spectate or ride at the 2022 Horse of the Year Show? Write to us and tell us about your experience at email@example.com
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound, on sale Thursday 20 October
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Credit: Peter Nixon
Credit: PETER NIXON
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