HOYS Back With Vengeance in Birmingham

There was little in terms of major FEI events this week, but one event which was certainly of interest to the showing world was the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) which took place in Birmingham once again. The show was back with vengeance this year after the enforced cancellation of 2020; with all the showing classes for any manor of horse together with some CSI 3 star show jumping.

Ellie Mae Harrington wins the Supreme Pony of the Year

The showing classes were as usual, and as they should be all very strong with only very small amounts of difference between all the protagonists within each class and section. There are far too many showing championships to report on each, so we have taken a selection of classes for this article in the hope that a general overview of the five day show is provided for and apologise for any that have been left out.

The Show opened with the Mears Flooring Ladies Side Saddle Horse of the Year final. There were 20 competitors in the class including the 2019 champion, back again for further glory, Seabourne Silent Valley ridden by Francoise Babington. The 12 year old thoroughbred gelding once again took the crown and by all accounts was even better this year than in 2019. Francoise has owned the horse for four years.

Neil Wray driving his own Hackney Stallion Plains Royalty took the Horse & Country Harness Horse and Pony of the Year Championship for a third time in succession. Plains Royalty is now a 10 year old.  Neil broke the horse at 2 ½ years old and has shown him throughout his showing career.

Minelle Rebellion – a full brother to the Cheltenham winner and Grand National runner up Balthazar King won the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse of the Year Championship with Katie Dashwood in the saddle. Reg, as he is known at home, raced five times in his career, the last in 2017 as a five-year-old, but never won a race. Katie acquired him last year and he has been based with showing producer Jo Bates since February.

A home bred horse ridden by Megan Cookson took the Hamilton Tarmac Small Show Hunter of the Year Champion on the second day with Louvaine Rooney. The pair have been to HOYS on several occasions, but never got this far. The 15 year old winner will now be retired.

Lucy Hopkins and Chilly Breeze

The SEIB Search for a Star series is the aim of so many riders. The classes were judged by Jordan Cook, Katie Jerram-Hunnable and Chris Hunnable. The overall champion was Lucy Hopkins riding Chilly Breeze, a 7 year old gelding. Senior judge Katie Jerram-Hunnable fell in love with this horse as he showed himself off brilliantly and was an out and out champion. The reserve champion was awarded to Harriet Conlon riding a piebald Eye Candy II.

In only the fifth time the Junior Mountain & Moorland Ridden Pony of the Year Championship sponsored by UK Ponies & Horses Ltd was staged at HOYS, The Welsh section A’s were the ones to beat. The champion was Wellbank Gabriel a 12 year old gelding from the small breed section ridden by Lexi Brash. The Welsh pony section also took the reserve champion, this time Amilas Clicquot ridden by Lily Walker. The pair have only been together for a year now, so it was a fantastic achievement to do so well in their first major outing.

Mollie Mae Jeffrey took the National Pony Society/ Mole Valley Farmers Working Hunter Pony of the Year Championship riding Woodfield Jovial Joker, a 9 year old Connemara pony.  This was double championship win for the pair as in 2019, they took the Thor Atkinson Steel Fabrications Ltd Mountain & Moorland Working Hunter Pony championship. Jack, as he is known, is completely home bred and produced, and with no real facilities at home, Mollie had to rely on outside help to train the pony throughout his showing career.

The Price Family Supreme in hand Championship. Both of the sections for this championship were strong classes and so the champion was going to be a hard one for the judges to decide. In the end they made Tell Me Another ridden by Steve Pitt the champion with Ellister Islay Spruce in reserve ridden by Ross Keys.

Lord Alexander ridden by Stephen Norris won this well patronised championship,  The Leeman Family Maxi Cob of the Year Championship. The Champion was in no mood to give up his crown of two years ago when he took the same championship. The Grey Goose, ridden and owned by Tina Billingsley took the reserve title. In the Chaps sponsored Coloured Horse and Pony Championship, the champion was the winner of the first section of these classes, Lostock Upto Date ridden and owned by Sarah Harrison; with the reserve won by Victoria Hesford riding Red Rock III.

Robert Walker on Viewpoint

The final day of the show is always a nervous one for those still qualified to become the champion horse and pony of the year – the supreme championships, both sponsored by Supreme Products. The Pony Supreme Championship was won by Roseberry Final Edition ridden by Ellie Mae Harrington. She took the Supreme Championship having already won her class of the British Pony Society 148 Childrens Riding Pony of the Year and then going onto to winning the championship of that section. The Supreme Horse of the Year was won by Robert Walker riding Jill Day’s View Point. No stranger to the winner’s enclosure, Robert Walker took the Catplant Lightweight Show Hunter Class on the way to winning this Supreme Championship.

Finally, we high light one of the most exciting and competitive classes of the week. Although staged as a showing class, it is actually a showjumping class for young riders below the age of 16. The Sorbeo Leading Pony Showjumper of the Year. It is always a close contest between the riders, all determined to win, and all tend to go like a ‘bat out of hell’ in order to beat the clock and their rivals. Unfortunately, most forgot the old mantra, ‘less is more!’

Elissa Herrman and Lapislazuli

Hampshire rider Elissa Herrmann from near Winchester riding Lapislazuli won with a double clear. The 10 year old gelding beat 26 others and was the only one to go double clear over the two rounds. This class has been held every year since 1949 with among the previous winners – Michael and William Whitaker. Sophie Evans took second place on Oscar van de Beekerheide, with third going to Ollie Fry and Zucan V. The winner has had a busy time as they represent Great Britain in the European Pony Championships earlier in the year.

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh started the pony mounted games and they first appeared at HOYS in 1959. Now following his passing earlier this year, the Games continue and have been supported this year by Thistledown Developments.  Thistledown Development Pony Club Mounted Games Prince Philip Cup. The final four teams took to the arena for the fast and furious finals. The competition starts early each year for pony club members affiliated to hunts around the country. 150 teams start out to try and qualify each year for this prestigious championship with only the final qualified six teams going to HOYS, so just to be competing at the venue is a huge achievement. In 2018 and 2019, West Hampshire took the overall championship on both years, and they were determined to make it a hat trick.

Winners of The Prince Philip Cup Mounted Games – West Hampshire

They rode like demons to claim victory for the third time. The year out in 2020 did mean four new team members coming on board since their last win at HOYS, including two younger members. Making up the winning team were: Megan Pink, Katie Upshall, Bella O’Hara, Henry Chick, Layla Conrath and Phoebe Chick. Their Trainer Jo Morris is retiring from coaching the team this year, so she described this as “the best present” she could have been given and said the team’s performance out there tonight was just “phenomenal”. The winning team won by a full five points ahead of their nearest rivals from two other teams,  The North Warwickshire and The Monmouthshire. The final of the four final teams was the Eglington Hunt.

Many will thoroughly disapprove of our comments that the showjumping at HOYS is really secondary, but nevertheless some good classes are staged over the five days with the more prestigious classes at the end of the week.

Charlotte Dujardin takes her fifth Inter 1 Freestyle at HOYS

One initiative taken a few years ago now was to introduce a dressage class; an Intermediate 1 Freestyle to music class. This year there were only eight in the class, The Dressage Future Elite Championship, a number slightly below the normal ten or eleven. The ever popular Charlotte Dujardin took the class with 84.82% riding her recently crowned National Small Tour Champion Imphotep. She chose music from Simon and Garfunkel to dance to on this occasion. Another who showed some success at the same National Championships just a couple of weeks ago was Andrew Gould riding Genie I, who was runner up here. In third was Nikolas Kroencke riding Flanel. The competition is for 8 to 10 year olds and this was Charlotte’s fifth consecutive win. The class was judged by Peter Storr and Isobel Wessels.

The first of the international showjumping classes was the Welcome Stakes, in which 26 riders took to the floor. The class was a two phase special and was won by Georgia Tame riding Z7 Caretina with no faults in either of the two phases and the fastest time of 27.60 seconds. Again with no faults, Guy Williams riding Cicero II was second and Adrian Speight was third on Green Grass. The top 12 runners were all clear in both phases of the class. Twenty four combinations lined up for the Thistledown Stakes, a two round competition. Six of the riders went clear in the first round of which three went double clear. The winner was Guy Williams riding Rouge de Ravel in 34,92 seconds with Lily Attwood coming second with 35.91 seconds. The third and final clear round competitor was David Simpson riding for Ireland. Another class with 26 riders once again was

Michael Duffy had a great show

The Grandstand Challenge Cup, one round with a jump off. Robert Smith, who we have not seen on the circuit for some time started off the proceeding, but did not have a good day in the office and retired. The winner was Michael Duffy riding Jeff Ten Halven with a double clear and in 33.55 seconds. Ten went through to the jump off and the second fastest home, like the winner with a double clear was John Whitaker riding Unick Du Francport on 33.67 seconds. In a really tight final round, William Whitaker took the third spot, again with a double clear and 33.94 seconds. There were three other double clears.

The Ripon Select Food Puissance is always considered to be one of the highlights of the whole week and this year was no exception. There were 12 starters to face the huge wall stood in the middle of the arena. By the end of the first round, we were down to 9 riders left. The next round saw another two riders leave the action and the third round claimed another three victims. Now with only three left, the stage was set for the final two rounds; Guy Williams, Joseph Trunkfield and Michael Duffy. The fourth round saw Guy Williams riding Mr Blue Sky take the wall out but the other two going clear. The wall for the fifth and final round was set at 7 feet 2 inches. The first of the final two to go in was Michael Duffy riding RMF Charly who cleared the massive object and was followed in by Joseph Trunkfield riding Senators Rhondaigo who also cleared the wall, so top honours were shared.

Harry Charles takes the Showjumper of the Year award

The final showjumping class for the week, and the final class for the whole show was the traditionally run Leading Showjumper of the Year. Twenty five show jumpers qualified for this class of two rounds, the second with a jump off. In the first round, three retired and there were only four who went clear. Georgia Tame, one of the first round clears had a horrible time in the jump off ending with 13 faults. Of the final three, Angelie Von Essen, riding for Sweden was third collecting 4 faults. The second, who went clear was Ben Walker riding Creevy Taylor in 43.21 seconds; but the winner, also with a double clear in an electrifying time of 37.19 seconds a full 6 seconds faster than anyone else was Harry Charles riding Stardust – clearly well named for this competition!

All Images courtesy of First Class Images at the Horse of the Year Show.

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