‘It was a good year for hunter classes’

Jus­tine Arm­strong-Small com­mends the work­ing hunter track at HOYS

Horse & Hound - - Showing - H&H

THIS year’s HOYS work­ing hunter course, with its theme of stately homes, was a pleas­ant sur­prise. Over the past few years, we’ve come to ex­pect spooky fences and a busy arena, but David Cole’s track was de­signed to en­cour­age power jump­ing — just as it should.

A worker is meant to keep trav­el­ling, not be for­ever hook­ing back and turn­ing.

The track was full-on from the start, open­ing over a box hedge par­al­lel. There was plenty of room between fences, cou­pled with a va­ri­ety of ob­sta­cles, which in­vited flow­ing rounds.

The or­gan­is­ers hoped for around 10 clears from the 37 starters and achieved just that. No one rode through the fin­ish leav­ing an arena lit­tered with de­bris, but 11 of us fell vic­tim to the same set of rus­tic planks.

The man-of-the-match award went to showjumper Derek Mor­ton, who jumped clear and fin­ished sec­ond on Steph Scott’s Opis Day. Derek was kit­ted out by fel­low competitors and in the ring within min­utes when Steph went clear on her even­tual third-placed nom­i­nated ride and needed a sub­sti­tute jockey. How about that for the art of catch rid­ing?

It was a good year for the hunter weight classes, too, with some qual­ity line-ups. Ride judge Robin Sharp gave all the horses a good gal­lop, which spec­ta­tors al­ways love to watch, be­fore ask­ing them to stand. This is how it should be; hunters aren’t meant to go like hacks but do need to be able to stand when asked.

In the light­weight class, for which 20 competitors came for­ward, Robin Sharp and con­for­ma­tion judge Alan Edmunds fol­lowed the clas­sic for­mat, pulling in a pro­vi­sional line-up af­ter the go-round. In the 28-strong mid­dleweights, they split them ran­domly, send­ing out each half in turn.

This may have been be­cause of time lim­i­ta­tions, but I think the go-round is an im­por­tant part of the class and an ini­tial pull-in gives the judges a bench­mark to work from.

SEIB race­horse to rid­ing horse classes have be­come in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar with competitors and spec­ta­tors. It was great to see them back in the in­ter­na­tional arena this year, as this pro­vided a much calmer en­vi­ron­ment and the big­ger arena en­cour­ages these thor­ough­breds to set­tle and cover the ground.

I was thrilled for Rebecca Court, who fin­ished Beware Chalk Pit’s show­ing ca­reer on a high, with both judges mak­ing him their win­ner. The qual­ity of these classes has im­proved ev­ery year, and this year’s win­ner was a wor­thy con­tender in a strong over­all supreme.

Cop­ing with the at­mos­phere is part of the chal­lenge. The Top­Spec arena is still buzzy, but at least ev­ery­one has got used to the pil­lar in the mid­dle.

Well done to Oliver Hood, who took on the ul­ti­mate pres­sure when he stepped in to ride Di­a­monds Are For­ever — rid­ing horse cham­pion with Ol­lie’s fa­ther, Al­lis­ter — and clinched the show’s top honour. You chose the right one!

Jus­tine Arm­strong-Small spe­cialises in hunters and work­ing hunters and has com­peted in the HOYS work­ers fi­nal for the past 29 years.

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