When Lloyd Bell ask me to cover the annual Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for them I am always happy to do so for the simple reason that it’s never just about the horses.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good horse show and think that show jumping itself is one of the most exciting sports to watch live. But alongside the usual interviews with the riders (both senior and the more up and coming variety), one of the joys of HOYS is finding all the other angles and stories to cover as well.
Last year, for example, I spotted ITN news broadcaster Alistair Stewart in the auditorium. And while I wouldn’t go far enough to say that I stalked him, I did run down a corridor after him to ask if he would be happy to do a quick interview. He was, luckily, and talked about his role as an ambassador for British Show Jumping.
In the course of that interview he mentioned that the newly appointed Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, was attending that evening’s session of the show. Cue quick run back to the show’s press office to see if we could arrange a quick chat. We did, and the minister gave us a lovely piece about how much she enjoyed the show and how much she was learning about jumping, dressage, and the healthy state of British equestrianism.
This year was no different. A colleague from Horse and Hound, for example, found out that the sponsors of one of the classes were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that day and had come to the show. That in itself was great, but then a little digging revealed that, on their wedding day in 1966 they had married and then gone to the show, back when it was held at the Empire Pool in Wembley (now Wembley Arena), and hadn’t been back since. We went to meet them, and filmed a lovely video interview for the HOYS Facebook page.
Video was another new and fun part of this year’s show too. Rupert Bell had started the trend earlier in the week simply filming a few behind the scene clips using his phone. They went down a storm on the HOYS Facebook page – with one clip of dressage superstar Charlotte Dujardin warming up ahead of her ride gaining, at the last count, more than 60,000 views. I teamed up with HOYS Ambassador Hannah Eccles (she and her sister Joanne are the current world vaulting champions too) to make some more.
And, as a final hurrah, I even managed a chat with the creator and producer of the musical Mama Mia, Judy Craymer. The West End cast of the show was performing at HOYS and she’s also another British Showjumping ambassador. So it’s not just about the horses. You get to meet all sorts, and it’s great.
By Rob Howell