Lauded as “the world’s most famous horse show” my annual trip to The Horse of the Year Show is always a highlight on my calendar. This year my pre-show anticipation was fast reaching its threshold – as it was the 70th anniversary of this iconic show and the schedule seemed to be more varied than ever, promising something to delight everyone.
As you know, I attend quite a few shows throughout the course of the year so I am a dab hand at packing the contents of my studio and setting off in search of horse-lovers! HOYS is a particularly fabulous show to attend, not least because it is so organised (and because there is no need to worry about the weather – no wading through mud at HOYS!). The show has a very special vibe and I always enjoy meeting the lovely people who attend and catching up with past, present and future clients. It never fails to humble me to see my clients greet me like the old friends we have become.
HOYS is one of those shows that sends a shiver down my spine whenever I think about it. It truly is the “Show of Champions” that it was originally intended to be – the pinnacle of the showing and show jumping year. It was an integral part of my childhood growing up – so many vivid memories involve me watching the show on TV, cheering for the enthusiastic (often over-enthusiastic) canine stars in the dog agility, being wowed by the dexterity of the scurry ponies and of course holding my breath as I willed every horse and rider over every fence in the show jumping. And yes I was one of those people who literally held my breath every time the great John Whitaker and Milton jumped a round! So for me, to attend this great show as an exhibitor, and therefore play my own small part in shaping its future history, is really something quite special.
At this year’s show my stand was near the Top Spec arena so I got a chance to keep an eye on all the things that were going on there. The show delivered on everything it promised and had a fabulously varied programme, including all the old favourite events of course, but visitors were also entertained by the GB vaulting team and the Household Cavalry, whilst there were also a lot of informative demonstrations going on offering practical help and advice. I can honestly say that I had a very varied show as well. It was a good job I had an able assistant, Jill, to help man the stand as I found myself otherwise engaged on a few occasions. Somehow I ended up on stage with Wocket Woy and the Pwoducer – now that was an experience!
And one particular highlight for me was holding an impromptu shoot for one very special little girl, Matilda, who was having her last ride on her pony, Holly Bush Enchantment, or Sharn, at the show. She was competing in The Price Family Lead Rein Pony of the Year and they came third – a very proud and emotional moment for all involved and I was thrilled to be able to capture some of those special moments on film.
I do tend to become a little star-struck at these shows and I have to share two rather special moments from this year’s event. I am a huge fan of the “Little Alf” books – I have bought them all for my friend’s little boy and love reading them to him. At HOYS this year I met Alf’s mum and author of the books, Hannah Russell. She was absolutely lovely and I was thrilled to learn that she loves my photography and would like to work with me on a collaborative project – I will be very excited to meet the miniature celebrity himself! On the last day of the show, feeling slightly weary, a boost to my energy came in the form of Simon Palmer. You may or may not know his name, but he was photographer and cameraman to Monty Roberts for 10 years. I was humbled beyond belief to find that this veteran of equine photography admired my work and it meant so much when he told me that I should be “very proud of my wonderful work” – wow!
There are so many high points to this year’s show that I could go on and on, but all good things come to an end. Not only is HOYS the finale of the equestrian season but it is also the finale of my “showing” schedule for the year. It is now back to the studio to work on my latest commissions and my Wild Hearts project and also get back out on location for some atmospheric autumn shoots. I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who visited me on the stand, it was lovely to see so many familiar faces and meet so many new ones.