The Horse of the Year Show bounced back in great style this year as enthusiastic crowds returned to event at Birmingham's NEC, last week, following last year's cancellation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Driven by the enthusiastic and determined grandstand supremo, Sandy Anderson, the equestrian world owe him and his equally enthusiastic and professional team a debt of gratitude for breathing life back into the industry at such a crucial time. During post-War times, never has this been more necessary or welcomed.

The show hosted three main locations, including the Andrews Bowen International Arena, which was home for the major show jumping and horse showing competitions, as well as the wide range of entertainment during the course of the show.

The Pony Club's mounted games competition is a regular crowd-pleaser, as is the double harness scurry which never seems to fail to entertain. The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment Musical Ride is also a great watch, however this year they were matched if not out-performed by the East Cheshire Pony Club, whose own musical ride was a credit to the riders.

In terms of an individual, star of any event must be the ever-popular Charlotte Dujardin, whose personal presence and expertise in dressage was met with huge appreciation for her win in the Future Elite Championship in the International Arena.

Surely this year's Saturday night performance there will go down in the history books as one of the best ever experienced at HOYS since it moved to the NEC. A capacity audience complemented by the most perfectly stage show jumping competition, everyone's favourite, the puissance, produced a result and atmosphere of which organisers' dreams are made.

It's certainly the best atmosphere I've experienced at HOYS and it was the talk of the show.

Popular, too, was the final showing championship at HOYS when all the ridden horse champions of the week came before well-known former National Hunt trainer, Henrietta Knight, and former jockey, Richard Johnson.

The title for the 'Supreme Ridden Horse of the Year' went to the brilliant lightweight show hunter and three times section champion at HOYS, View Point, ridden by Robert Walker for Jill Day.

However, arguably the biggest cheer was reserved for the winner of the 'British Ridden Heavy Horse Horse' winner. It was a case of third time lucky for John and Margo McIntyre's nine-year-old bay Clydesdale mare, Glenside Matthew’s Flower of Scotland, purchased as foal from her breeder, John Adamson.


John and Margo McIntyres nine-year-old bay Clydesdale mare, Glenside Matthew’s Flower of Scotland, brought a huge cheer in the ridden heavy horse section at HOYS, with the experienced Kirsty Aird on board

John and Margo McIntyre's nine-year-old bay Clydesdale mare, Glenside Matthew’s Flower of Scotland, brought a huge cheer in the ridden heavy horse section at HOYS, with the experienced Kirsty Aird on board


Described by Margo as 'a bit of an ugly duckling as a foal', she was left to mature and sent to Ron and Helen Brewster at their famous Bandirran Stud and livery yard, near Murthly, where she was broken to ride and drive and remained ever since.

Thistle (as she is known at home) had previously qualified for HOYS at the Royal Highland in 2018 and 2019. This year, she qualified at Cheshire County Show – and that same day that she came second in the singles driving class.

No stranger to HOYS was her rider, Kirsty Aird, who regularly travels from her yard at Netherton, Abernethy, to school her. In preparation for the Birmingham event, they competed in a few dressage competitions to gain experience indoors – the ploy certainly worked as she gave 'the most incredible ride', according to ride judge, Jack Cochrane.

The McIntyres farm near Stewarton, where their Freezlund Stud is based and currently running at about 20 in number of mainly Clydesdales, but also a few Shires. Having been with Ron and Helen for the past nine years, the Freezlund name is synonymous with very successful driving teams of Clydesdales,which compete the length and breadth of Britain.

Thistle's training under saddle holds her in good stead as she is also a mainstay of the teams leading the fours and all set as leader of the eight-hitch to compete at the World Clydesdale event planned for 2023 in Aberdeen. Describing HOYS as a real treat and a highlight at the end of the season, the McIntyres have high regard for 'The Team' involved in producing their horses.

Earlier in the week, it was another Scottish 'team' who celebrated a major championship victory, this time in the other competition arena sponsored by TopSpec.

There were no professionals involved but a family of seven, who travel to all the shows together and epitomise the notion of 'home-produced', as their ponies and horses are in every shape and form.

The Brash family – a household name around the Scottish shows – is led by charismatic and well-known grand-dad-in-chief, Tommy. Their championship win in the 'Junior Mountain and Moorland Pony of the Year Finals' with the Welsh Mountain pony gelding, Wellbank Gabriel, ridden by grand-daughter, Lexi Brash, was warmly received with Friday's crowd.

This was only their fourth attempt at 'flat' classes in the junior section having previously recorded four wins, including the qualifier at the Royal Highland Showcase, where they were also champions.

Now 12 years old, Gabriel was purchased at five having competed at a few shows in Yorkshire. He was an ideal mount for older grandchild, Kera, who enjoyed much success with him during his early years before passing him on to sister, Lexi.

All the while, he was trained by their aunt, Di Brash, herself a successful show rider and Lexi managed to get a tune out of Gabriel over jumps to win extensively in working hunter pony classes.

In 2019, the combination won the Mini Heritage M and M championship at the BSPS Summer Championships. Since then, they have been extremely success qualifying for HOYS in the open M and M worker section at Stoneleigh, this summer. Prior to HOYS they won three championships at the Scottish BSPS Championships before being judged Supreme.

Describing Gabriel as a 'pony of a lifetime, who will never be sold', Tommy and the Brash family will surely look back at HOYS 2021 as the show of a lifetime – needless to say the victory will be relived and retold for many years to come.

While these two major victories may have been special highlights of this year's HOYS, Scotland was well represented across the full spectrum of classes and disciplines throughout the week, alas, too many to mention here.

'The Show of Dreams', as it is often described, may have ended for this year but, truth be told, it's just beginning again as the quest for that champion now starts in earnest for 2022.