As we draw nearer the winter months, shorter days and a sharper bite to air, to showjumpers this means the season is drawing to a close and that means Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
This is the show all riders, national and international, want to be at as it’s the chance to be crowned a champion of numerous top series held throughout the year and, of course, the Leading Showjumper of the Year Grand Prix on the final night.
For us, the big event is the Connolly’s RED MILLS Senior Newcomers and after a great summer of qualifiers we ended up with 24 horse and rider combinations. Two lucky riders managed to have two horses in the class, Rachel Connors and Jake Saywell.
After all 24 had gone there were just nine clears and it came down to who dared the most after the first fence. The options were to go around a fence or take a shorter line inside. It was Joe Clayton on Lexi III who did exactly that to clench the win from Holly Smith on PLS Halo Diamond by just over two seconds.
Clayton, who is based at Michael Whitakers, was delighted with the mare and said to me after winning the qualifier at Arena UK – “she’ll have a good chance at the final!”. He certainly stood up to his word and took home the spoils.
It was the same first and second place as the qualifier at Arena UK. Smith was happy with her horse and knew once Clayton took the turn inside the fence, he had it. Well done to all involved with Clayton and Lex III.
Wednesday and Thursday evening compiled of other finals like the Talent Seeker, won by Smith on Lammy Beach, and the Foxhunter, won by Laura Pritchard on Horse Victory’s Fayot.
But it was the international classes, which had the Andrews Bowen Championship Arena packed out. Riders from all over the world, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands, Sweden, France, the USA, and of course the Emerald Isle, were there. All with their sights on main event, the Leading Showjumper of the Year .
But it’s not all about the jumping, there’s something for everyone from miniature showing to the scurry racing to the great international jumping. Fun and interest for all the family. Not to mention two halls of trade stands. It was a like a maze but trade seemed good from looking at the bag locker corner in the main hall. It was full to the gills with shopping bags, and they say we’re in a recession here in the UK?!
But if there was a night to remember it had to be Saturday’s main event, the Puissance. A very strong international line up stood in front of the big daunting red wall, which after four rounds finished off at two meters 20cm! It was the winner of the Talent Seeker, Smith on the nine year old Quality Old Joker who took home the spoils. Watching it on repeat a few times, Smith and George made it look so simple. Massive congratulations to all involved at Fox Covert Farm who are a huge part of the Smiths success.
To tie it all up on the Sunday night was, as mentioned above, the big one. The Leading Showjumper of the Year Grand Prix is one that so many riders have been trying to win for years, and for the international riders it’s one to steal off the home riders. But I don’t think anyone was expecting the carnage the first round caused! Only seven clears out of 32 and as you look down through the list of riders and faults it’s astonishing! But from talking to riders a lot of them were on younger/inexperienced horses at this level, as their top horses have been on the go all season at the biggest shows all over the world. But it’s a massive credit to all involved at HOYS to have the top riders here competing.
So after it all, it was the Irishman Cian O’Connor who took such a great turn back to the fourth fence, which others tried but just couldn’t catch him. It was the legend Whitaker who finished just 0.04 of a second behind O’Connor on the very scopey Super Sox. A ride he borrowed for the week from a client, so it showed great horsemanship to be able to pull off this great win and go home with £13,200. Not bad.
So until next year we look forward to seeing the horses who’ve won all this week and watch them progress in our sport and no doubt see a lot of them representing their countries at Nations Cup in the year to come.
- International Showjumping
- Senior Newcomers