It was fitting end to the Royal Highland Showcase that a Scottish exhibit should take the final championship of the event – making it a full flush for Scottish exhibitors on the most competitive day of all livestock classes.

The unanimous choice of the judges, the nine-year-old Fell pony stallion, Nicholwalls Black Jack, owned, produced and ridden by Kirsty Aird, looked a picture in the main ring where he saw off strong opposition which had travelled to the event from all over the British Isles.

The runner-up was another breed to have its origins in the North of England and was equally popular with the judges. This was the big, free-moving Dales gelding, Copleylane Ringo, which was repeating his 2019 victory at the Royal Highland for his delighted rider, Charlotte Smiley, from Northern Ireland.

It was a poignant win for professional producer, Kirsty, as, despite many victories at Ingliston for her owners, this was her first in her own right. However, she has known her stallion from his earliest days when she broke and produced him for his previous owners.

That was along with his stable-mate, Greenholme Emblem, which she also now owns and he came second in the working hunter section, this time having been a previous champion at the Royal Highland and HOYS.

Black Jack is no newcomer to the ring, however, having come second at the Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire in his last competitive season in 2018, when he was also placed at HOYS.

It was a quality Fell filly with ample bone and silky feather which also led the mixed M and M in-hand section when the overall championship went to the Smith family’s home-bred two-year-old Bracklinn Mabel, which was was having her first day away from home.

Her dam was purchased at the Murthwaite Stud dispersal sale a few years ago, however her sire is the home-bred Bracklinn Jackpot, twice champion at the Royal Highland and M and M in-hand champion at the last Royal Show of England prior to its demise.

This was a remarkable, if not unique, breeding double as Jackpot also sired the ridden M and M champion at the Showcase on Sunday.

Overall reserve came from the senior classes which were headed by Sandy Anderson’s Welsh mountain brood mare, Thistledown Jess Ennes, which was produced by Colin Tibby, from North Wales, along with a team of Thistledown ponies to support the Showcase.

On a day which celebrated the popularity of the ridden Mountain and Moorland ponies, the sun shone on one of the major spectacles of the light horse section when our youngest riders held centre stage with their lead rein and first ridden ponies.

The champion of this 'mini' section came from the former when the seven-year-old Welsh mountain pony gelding, Thistledown Skyfall, owned by Lyn Robertson, from Aberdeen and ridden by Jenson Anderson, topped a big class. Home-produced and carrying a low-mileage due to showing restrictions since being purchased two years ago, he now heads to HOYS, where he will be led by Emma Robertson, no stranger to the big stage as a leading show pony rider.

Typical of his Thistledown breeding, he is the latest of a host of successful lead rein ponies bred by Caithness-born Sandy Anderson, who also owns Grandstand Media, the organisers of HOYS. His ponies show marvellous temperament, with Skyfall no exception – he sat up and pinged along sweetly on every time of asking which obviously endeared him to the judge as well as the ringside.

So, too, did the reserve champion which had travelled all the way from Devon to compete in the first ridden class, arguably one of the best classes of the show. Not too many boys compete in the pony classes, so it was all the more remarkable that another should stand reserve champion when Harry Edwards-Brady successfully piloted for his mother another grey Welsh mountain gelding, Glebedale Austin Powers.

They may have travelled the length of Britain to compete, however not so the champion of the junior ridden section for native ponies when Lexi Brash topped two lovely classes with her chestnut gelding, Wellbank Gabriel, another Welsh mountain by the leading sire, Cwmhendy Buster.

Owned by the enthusiastic Brash family, from Linlithgow, he is well-known on the Scottish circuit where he normally excels in working hunter pony classes in which he recently stood supreme champion Mountain and Moorland at the BSPS Summer Show. Having already qualified for the juniors at the Royal International Horse Show, Lexi now has the opportunity to compete at HOYS in 2021.

Among several positives which emerged from the the Showcase organisation was the availability of the Countryside Area which, as predicted, provided a perfect setting for the working hunter classes.

Well-known course builder, Graham Barclay, didn't disappoint, with interesting courses built on the undulations of the location and perfect conditions on grass as traditionally was always the case. It was accurately described by the competitors as a mini hunter trials held in a big ring and proved popular with all concerned, despite some reservations by those who normally only compete on artificial surfaces.

As we have come to expect at the Royal Highland, the HOYS qualifiers for the Mountain and Moorland working hunter final provided the biggest and strongest entry of all the light horse classes. The Showcase proved no exception, although lower entries reflected the effects of the Covid-19 restrictions across the board.

Conditions were perfect for competition on Friday with some high-class combinations on the hunt for HOYS qualification. Scottish victories were thin on the ground with no winners showing in the results. However, an error was later discovered in the 122cm class and Emma Bryne, from Ayrshire, was promoted from fifth to first place with Paula Smith's Welsh Section C, Littledean Morning Light.

The bay gelding had qualified for HOYS, at Stoneleigh, last month, so the qualifying ticket went to the revised second place, Jenny Deary's Malby Mahyong, the pony which had originally stood first prior to the corrected result, so all was not lost for the pretty grey mountain pony and his connections.

Through no fault of his own, obviously Littledean Morning Light was unable to contest the section championship on the day which had gone to Malby Mahyong. Now technically a class second, there was a dilemma for the organisers however after consultation with the judges, bizarrely this result stood.

In the same ring earlier in the day, some quality horses competed for the HOYS working hunter qualification and it came as no surprise when the 12-year-old Dalton P, by Triomphe, led the class from Hio Imp Dale.

Literally first and second to go, they both produced copy-book rounds over a course which would have few equals during the season and reflected skills honed in eventing. It produced eight clear rounds and the opportunity for the judges to select quality horses with good conformation which proved they can perform in the true spirit of the class.

It was former Olympic bronze medallist, Anna Sloan, from Lockerbie, who heads for her first ever HOYS appearance. Within three weeks after competing in the British Curling Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Anna turned her attention to eventing and found her winner in the Lohoar's yard, in Fife.

Scotland's plaited workers were unable to fend off the southern challenge, despite a clean sweep in the 143cm class by Perthshire's England family grandchildren on their successful Connemara ponies.

Winning at Ingliston for the third time and a former champion of the section was Rosshill Paddy, exhibited under the Scotbeef banner and now ridden by Eliza England.

Even the reigning HOYS Supreme, Coco Bongo, from Caithness, wasn't able to fend off the rest in the 133cm section when he stood second which left the door open for the large height class winners to dominate the championship.

No stranger to the winning spot was Alice Cowie, from Durham, riding her mother's 153cm winner, TGF Lucy. All was not lost however, when the BSPS Scotland Nursery Stakes Championship Final (ineligible for the overall) went to Karen Watson's Birkinbrook Cello, ridden by daughter, Aailiyah. The attractive palomino Welsh Section B has won twice previously at HOYS.

Ridden hunters opened proceedings in the main ring on Friday and sadly only a small number of quality show horses contested the HOYS tickets available in four classes. It was no surprise that the judges went to their middleweight class for their section leaders.

The winner was no stranger to Ingliston, having stood section reserve champion when previously shown by Di Brash, who also took the home-produced supreme at the 2018 Royal International Horse Show with him.

Now produced by Magnus Nicholson, in Yorkshire, the bay nine-year-old gelding, Remember Rossmore, by Rubin Star, was ridden by his wife, Kate, leaving Magnus out in the cold with his seasoned heavyweight winner, Bowland Lucky Slipper, whose ride he describes to being akin to 'wearing a well-worn pair of slippers.'

Class second and runner-up in the championship was a newcomer to the professional hunter ranks, Harrison Taylor, riding his mother's Romanno Royale, co-incidentally another by Rubin Star. The gelding first came to notice as a yearling when he qualified for the Cuddy In-hand Final for Martin Woods, having been found for him by Craig Elenor at Jenny Gilchrist's Romanno Stud at Biggar – in 2015, he reappeared at HOYS as a three-year-old to take the Cuddy Supreme title.

Scottish interests lay in the lightweight class with Richard Telford, who won with Tiger Temple and in the small division when Kirstine Douglas produced Irish Invention to take the fourth of the section tickets for HOYS .

This supreme in-hand championship at HOYS provides the life blood to the in hand showing industry and has now found a new sponsor in the Price family, in whose name it is now contested. The Showcase maintained the Highland qualifier this year, however with a restricted Covid-19 schedule, it was a shadow of previous years, with only six forward for judging, albeit one pony having taken championships in two sections.

In fact, this was the one which took the eye of well-known and respected judge, Walter Bowie, a remarkable achievement in itself for various reasons, not least of which is the fact that the three-year-old riding pony gelding was appearing at only his second show and second time away from his field which is literally only a couple of miles from Ingliston.

Colonel Mustard (of Cluedo fame) is a striking, free-moving chestnut by Stanleygrange Regal Heights and out of the well-bred former Royal Highland show pony winner, Rhos Emelia, regularly ridden by Olivia Cousens, whose father, Charlie, produced her for Carol Mason. Bred by Charlie Cousens, Colonel Mustard showed all the hallmarks of his stellar production.

The reserve to the pony was an attractive bay hunter brood mare, Watervalley Bobbies Girl, shown by Sandra Auld, from Braco. This upstanding 12-year-old Irish Sports Horse was bred to event and is part of his owner's programme to breed performance horses with eventing in mind.

This was the mare's only second time shown in hand and like the best of the Sports Horses shown in hand, Emma-Louise Johnston’s SSHB premium-graded Burgraff mare,Toners Burnished Unakite, proves that performance horses can also do well in the show ring.

It was great pity that neither of the Scottish native breeds came forward to represent their country of origin although in all fairness to the Highland pony champion, his owners weren't informed that he was ineligible to compete for the qualifier, which excludes senior geldings from competing.

Luckily, the error was noticed by a friend who prevented a return trip to Edinburgh from the gelding's home in Moray, however, sadly, there was insufficient notice to the owners of the reserve to bring forward their female champion and overall reserve. It was possibly a greater pity that the outstanding Shetland champion, Wells Dancing Brave, a three-year-old colt from Harry Sleigh and Sons didn't appear as this may have been the year for the breed to represent Scotland at HOYS.

Needless to say the HOYS qualification tickets brought the best of the entries forward as usual and despite a clashing qualifier in Lancashire classes held up well in the ridden coloured classes where the small height native ponies made a fine spectacle in the west end of the main ring.

The winner here, Burghwallis Crème de la Crème, failed to hold off the challenge of the non-native plaited horse class which was secured by Danielle Radford, from Ashbourne, riding her own Rhyfel Saxon Prince.

The same ring hosted another of the best classes of the show when mother and daughter team, Evelyn Aitken and Philippa MacInnes, from Ayrshire, placed the part-bred class which also qualified for HOYS.

With some lovely quality ponies on parade, their immediate choice was Whiteleaze Debutante, ridden by Florrie Duncalf, who has already qualified her for the 138cm show pony class at HOYS. By the outstanding pony sire, Cusop Dimension, this young mare just showed her lack of experience in her individual show which meant she had to give way to the 148cm from Ayrshire, Roseberry High Flyer, another to have qualified for the show pony classes at HOYS following his reserve championship win at Derbyshire Festival for Susy Edwards. He was produced by Caitlin Galbraith in a season where the gelding remains unbeaten.

The same stable produced the champion show pony when there was a change of fortunes in the championship for the winner of the 138cm class, Victoria Taylor's Chanlee Delightful Dan, which had to give way to his class second, Field Aston Diamante.

Only a four-year-old, he was a recent novice champion at the Scottish BSPS Summer Show ridden, as he was at Ingliston, by Ellie Anderson.

There was no stopping of the Galbraith team, which also produced the champion of a small mini show pony section where the first ridden winner, Charlotte Wilson and Litton Perfection, headed her class; second and reserve champion was Glenard Bumble Bee, ridden by Isla Smith.

Perhaps the clash with the Three Counties qualifiers also explained reduced numbers in some classes on the day, with show hunter ponies thin on the ground. This may explain why the judges went to the small height class (122cm) for both their champion and reserve, however perhaps it was the substance of body and limb coming from their Welsh breeding that swayed them.

Leader was Chrisy Knipe, from Cumbria, with her dark cream gelding, Bronheulog Gold Dust, ridden by her daughter, Samantha which took the class and championship while another Cousens’ product, Kenmuir Equestrian’s Thistledown Arctic Monkey, stole the show with a rip-roaring gallop to impress sufficiently to stand reserve and take the HOYS qualifier since the winner had already bagged his at Derbyshire Festival.

A disappointingly small class for lead rein of hunter types was literally led by Julie Templeton, with Littlebriars Horatio, ridden by Harriet Walsh-White, to claim their ticket to HOYS.

Last, but not least, of the HOYS qualification tickets up for grabs was contested on Thursday, when the section for private driving witnessed a small entry in the main ring.

Like the other sections, quality came to the top once more when a previous Royal Highland champion and former judge of the driving finals at HOYS as well as winner there in 2016, Richard Lanni, drove a pair of Gelderlanders yet again to gain a place in the finals at Birmingham.

Fairly recent additions to his team from Holland, his extremely attractive, good-moving young geldings, Harold and Manfred, looked the part and easy winners.

Isla Miller was one of a fairly large contingent of showing enthusiasts who travelled from Caithness to compete and her long trek south was well rewarded when her JST Silvermist took riding horse honours from Jenifer Garland’s Knight Light, from Ayrshire.

This was one of the lighter sections in entry like the riding cobs which were led by another Lockerbie exhibitor, Rosamund Lane’s Pudding Lane, ridden by her daughter Sophie. The same combination’s Hardingville Sunrise appeared in the ladies' side saddle class only to be beaten by Michelle Feeney, who brought her Ballyhoulihan from Lancashire to win.

Thankfully the weather remained fine throughout the Showcase which added to the relief of the organisers as well as the delight of the exhibitors.

The Covid-19 restrictions had a minimum impact on exhibitors and judges alike over the three days of light horse classes and I am certain that everyone thoroughly enjoyed a glimpse of reality. Nevertheless, roll on 2022 and a return of the 'real' Royal Highland Show.