The main ring at the Royal Highland held stage to excellent competition over the four days of the show, so it was a fitting tribute that the final championship of the light horses classes went to a Scottish-bred pony aptly-named Gems Malt Whisky.

Bred by the late Richard Deptford, from Elgin, the attractive bay 10-year-old Welsh Section C stallion is based in Lancashire and looked an out-and-out champion from the start. He never missed a beat from start to finish, just as he had done earlier in the month when he gained his HOYS ticket at the hotly contested Derbyshire Festival.

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Current BSPS Heritage Winter champion when ridden, produced and owned by April Gilmartin, this combination is no stranger to HOYS having been second there twice in the past two years – perhaps they will go one better in 2023.

As one of the most popular of the sections throughout the week, it attracted entries from far and wide, including professional producer, Emma Burrows, from Carlisle, who took the reserve place with Antonia Mitchell’s Willmont Braveheart.

The Scottish Farmer: No 5010 Class 556  BSPS Show Pony Champion ROSEBERRY HIGH FLYER

Purchased as a foal and another good example of the breed, his easy going nature belies his ability to win at the highest level, which includes the Fell title at HOYS in 2022.

With such a high quality field in the section, Scottish victories were few and far between, which made it all the more creditable that Myranda Houton from Ayrshire secured the Welsh Section B class and HOYS qualification with Cadlanvalley Buzz Lightyear.

The Scottish Farmer: Class 504 No 4466 Welsh Section D Champion GLYNFFYNNON PURE LADY DIANA

Still only a five-year-old, he is a good goer and big mover so unsurprisingly claimed another HOYS ticket, this time in the junior rider’s class when he stood class second to the previously qualified, Thistledown San Siro. The icing on the cake came when he was awarded the small breeds trophy following the ridden Mountain and Moorland championship.

It was another Thistledown pony, like San Siro, a pretty dapple grey gelding that headed a huge lead rein class and mini M and M section. Shown and produced by master at the job, Craig Elenor, this was Martin Wood’s newcomer this season, Thistledown Silver Bullet, bought for his grandson Freddie but ridden on this occasion by Jemima Makin-Jones.

The Scottish Farmer: Welsh Section A champion was Sunwillow XSPO

Perfect for the job, this is one to watch in the coming seasons. With boys few and far between in the showing classes, it was interesting to see Walter Ashworth ride his grandmother’s Shetland pony gelding, Hackamore Momento, to class second as well as runner-up position in the championship.

All the ridden native classes were massive and equal, if not better, in number and quality to any across Britain this season. None more so than the M and M working hunter section which stretched well into the evening and just finishing before dusk. It was a gargantuan task for the organisers, stewards and judges who did well to stay on task for such a long time.

The Scottish Farmer: No 4385 Class 493 Welsh Section B April Gilmartin and JANPETE CLASS ACT

A move to the jumping ring for a gallop in the championship witnessed a win for the attractive roan New Forest gelding, Lovelihill Folklore, owned by Penny Sutton. Having won his breed class at HOYS in 2022 and second in the workers the same year, like Malt Whisky, his connections will be hoping that his Highland Show ticket helps take him to the top this year.

While the last day’s championship in the Main Ring proved to be a worthy end to the show, the first day’s championship there was a brilliant start to it with another good win for Scotland in the hunter classes.

Prior to that, the ‘heavy horse breeds’ made a great spectacle during the morning with an unusual but somewhat theatrical layout a feature as much as the animals on show. Looking from the grandstand, from left to right, the rings held standard Shetlands, Highland males, Clydesdales males and females, Highland females and miniature Shetlands.

The Scottish Farmer: No 5255 G.A.D Burton with Champion Donkey TODRIDGE NOOTKA ROSE

If spectators had interests other than Clydesdale, there was plenty of walking back and forward in front of the stand to make sure that nothing was missed. Inconvenience apart, it undoubtedly made an impressive spectacle and an eye-catching opening setting for the show.

At the same time this was going on, horses were being judged in the Thistle Ring, which, in my view, had come of age this year. The ground staff are to be congratulated for getting the turf in such good order and the inclusion of a hedge on the perimeter fence will pay handsome dividends in years to come.

The Scottish Farmer: Side Saddle champion was Amy Bryan Dowell's Ceilis Bouncer

The going was good, the ring looked good and competitors seemed well pleased with it as a competition space.

Both in hand sections for hunters and Sports horses were an improvement on last year in both number and quality. Billy Moran, from Tyne and Wear, is a great supporter of the Highland and didn’t disappoint this year when he showed his well-known heavyweight brood mare, Corkeeran Willow, to win both class and championship.

This attractive grey Irish Draught, with her glorious dapples, is so typical of her breed and the sort likely to breed weight-carrying hunters, so it was apt that she bettered the young hunter leader from Ireland, Martin and Walsh’s three-year-old Imperator 11.

The charisma the mare showed on Thursday didn’t follow through the next day for the in hand supreme when she looked a bit tired and travel-weary, so she’ll have to battle it out another day for her return ticket to HOYS.

The Scottish Farmer: Richard Telford's Castle Marksman was the Connemara champion

Sports horses are always difficult to assess, since potential performance qualities don’t always shine through in the show ring. In other words, they aren’t always show horses as we know them, although basic principles should still apply.

This classically applied to the champion of the section, the Fenston Stud’s yearling colt, Florian von Faustinus, whose continental name belies the fact that he was bred in Ayrshire and now resides near Carnwath.

The Scottish Farmer: No 5069 Class 559 M & M Lead Rein & First Ridden Champion Miss S Parrott and Mr S C Elenor

Carrying the best of breeding and standing on good limbs, this good moving youngster was far from ready for the show ring and needs time to mature. He is destined for eventing and dressage before stallion duties for stud owner, Emma Louise Johnston.

The reserve, on the other hand, is a show horse through-and-through, although the jury is still out on whether James Munro’s Ashlea’s The Banker will contest ridden hunter or riding horse classes in the future. A recent reserve at Royal Cheshire for the HOYS Price in hand, he looks set for a good career in the show ring – depending on how he matures.

The two-year-old gelding hailed from Caithness, as did the eventual light horse in hand supreme judged this year by leading UK judge, Mrs Vivienne Appell, from London. Her selection to compete at HOYS in The Price Family supreme in hand championship was Penkyber Mayflower.

A very correct, free-moving bay mare and a model of a hunter pony in type, Mayflower was champion of the inaugural section for Welsh part-breds. By Small Land Maytino, a prolific show winner himself as well as a prolific sire of show and show hunter ponies, she looks every inch the image of her sire and typical of his offspring.

The Scottish Farmer: No 5580 Mia Whittaker WARDS PLACE PHOTOGENIC Coloured ridden pony champion.

Mayflower won extensively in ridden classes as both show hunter pony and riding horse for her Caithness owner/rider, Emma Gunn.

As it happened, all the other sections had to stand aside for the reserve rosette which went to the reserve champion of the Arab and part-bred Arabs shown in hand. This was Claire Bell’s quality bay riding pony mare, Rotherwood Coppelia, by Rotherwood Spring Parade.

Interestingly, earlier in the day she stood class second and reserve champion to Charlie Cousens’ five-year-old gelding, Colonel Mustard, a previous HOYS qualifier in hand at Ingliston as a youngster, but now ineligible to compete in hand at HOYS due to age. Having also won the riding pony in hand championship, he had to stand aside to let both his reserves take part.

The St John’s Wells Trophy is always an interesting spectacle at lunch time on Friday as pairs of ponies by the same sire entered in the Mountain and Moorland classes. There were 10 pairs forward this year to be judged by Tweetie Nimmo, who had a busy time judging various sections of the show.

Unusually, two pairs of Fell ponies came to the fore. The first pair, Drybarrows-bred Fallon and Dynasty, were by the great stock-getter and show winner, Carrick I’m Yer man. The second placed pair, Bracklinn Beth and Bracklinn Aubrey, are by his son, Bracklinn Jackpot, another well-known winner and breeder within the breed and a former overall Mountain and Moorland champion here when shown in hand.

Both stallions were winners at Ingliston under saddle and both were owned by the Smith family, from Dunblane, who have been former outright winners of the trophy, as has the Transy Stud that stood third this time. Having now sired seven winning pairs in this competition, I’m Yer Man’s influence on the Fell breed will surely go down in history.

If Friday is traditionally the day for breeders, it also features the ridden Highland section which was headed by a former in hand champion of its breed section here, Sarah-Jane Forbes’ eight-year-old, Kincardine Uist, which led, in the championship, Katie Common’s prolific winner Dunedin Mascot, currently on lease form his owner, Jane McNaught.

Mascot returned to the Main Ring for the HOYS class on Sunday, where he stood second to Aileen Curle’s extensive winner, Harris of Mendick, produced and ridden by Brian Williams, from Cumbria. With the winner already qualified, the HOYS ticket went to Mascot.

Traditionally, plaited ponies take centre stage at Ingliston on Saturday in order to accommodate the demands of school and it was encouraging to see some good entries in the various sections which have generally lacked support across the country in recent years, this year being no exception.

Hunter ponies were better than normal, with first spoils going to the impressive intermediate winner, Paul Mortimer’s bay mare, Royal Illusion, produced by Vicky Smith, from Cheshire, and ridden by her god-daughter, Poppy Carter, who had previously never sat on the mare. Shown extensively in riding horse classes, it was champion at Royal Windsor in May.

Best among the Scottish entries in second was Erin Greer with her grey, JST Silvermist, produced at Ayr by Caitlin Galbraith-Roberts

With the intermediate ineligible for the championship, this left the door open for the 153cm winner from Yorkshire, Team Harker’s Penwind Charlie – an opportunity to impress which he did at the cost of the smallest of the winners, the 122cm leader, Gryngallt Page Too.

No stranger to the top spot at Ingliston, the seasoned chestnut gelding is ridden by young Harry Edwards-Brady, who had made the long journey from the West Country. What show ponies lacked in number, they made up for in quality as demonstrated by the section champion produced by doyen among the producers, Julie Templeton, from Shropshire.

Her 148cm winner and champion, Roseberry High Flyer, was third at HOYS in 2022 and second at Windsor this year among championship placing to date.

Interestingly, it was a mare bred by her and partner, Fiona Wallace, that took the 138cm class as well as the part-bred HOYS qualifier with Fieldaston Diamante. This quality black mare was no match for the smaller height winner, Brookallan Lady Isabella, one of a team of ponies brought over from Northern Ireland by Anthea Steel for the show.

The plaited working hunter pony classes never fail to impress, although numbers continue to fall across Britain in the current climate.

Nevertheless, there was the usual high standard of competition, with the championship going to the previous 2021 champion, TGF Lucy, ridden by Alice Cowie for her mother, Janet. Scottish WHP Team members, they had a brilliant result in May when this combination took the Burley Gold Cup at the BSPS Winter championships – closer to home, they will be heading to Oatridge early in August for the forthcoming BSPS Home International.

They took their HOYS ticket while their native ‘worker’, Cloughrae Hill Billy, took a creditable third place in the knowledge that HOYS still beckons following a win at Royal Cheshire earlier in the week.

The reserve in the section came from the 133cm class, which was topped by the grey Welsh Section B gelding, Waxwing Money Matters, bred in West Fife, but now resident with Lyndsay Birtwell, in Lancashire, for her daughter Brea, who will compete at HOYS for the first time.

Returning to Thursday, the ridden classes began early in the all-weather arena that is now known as the Jubilee Ring, where a smaller than usual working hunter competition witnessed only four clear rounds.

Well-known competitor, Rachel Turner, travelled north to gain her HOYS qualification with her seasoned performer, Ernie Big, a good looking Irish-bred bay lightweight which has been a major winner at big shows with her since 2017 when he shone as a novice.

He also shone in the Main Ring at Ingliston during the overall ridden hunter championship when, reminiscent of his days in the hunting field, he showed all the flat winners how to gallop.

He needed more than that to impress the judges, who only had eyes for Morean Hamilton’s outstanding middleweight winner, Rich Man Poor Man, expertly ridden and produced by Kirstine Douglas, from Dumfries. Having made such a remarkable transition from the race course to the show ring some years ago, it is a credit to his connections that he is currently riding the crest of a wave in a career that seems to know no bounds.

Looking absolutely magnificent in both class and championship, it is no wonder that he had qualified for HOYS a few days earlier at Royal Cheshire and also took the ROR Scottish championship a few hours earlier at the Highland.

The Hamilton/Douglas dream team not only secured both the ridden hunter championship and the overall when the hunter brood mare stood reserve, but they won the small hunter HOYS ticket with,= Atmospheric and reserve champion in the ridden cob section with the bay lightweight, Mr Bear, who is also bound for HOYS.

It was one of Scotland’s other principal producers, Richard Telford, who had the winning hand in the cob ring when he built upon recent successes with Lady Vestey’s attractive grey heavyweight, Taylor’s Hero. From the same stable, Stuart Ashton partnered Lady Vestey’s well-established winner, Pairc an Faoi Diamond, to stand third.

Just as these cobs came out of Ireland, so, too, did the Connemara in hand champion which Richard produces for Kayra Thomas, both in hand and under saddle. This was Castle Marksman bred by leading breeder, Henry O’Toole.

Meanwhile, in the hunter ring, Richard rode into second slot with the big upstanding heavyweight, Quality Control, just missing out on his HOYS ticket to Kirsty Aird, who recently took over the ride of Alastair and Alison Finlay’s big chestnut gelding, Harry’s Hunter – a previous Royal International contender which competes both astride and side saddle for his regular jockey, Jade Paterson.

On Sunday, the curtain came down in fine style in the main ring at this year's show which had attracted arguably the highest calibre of entries in the light horse section seen north of the Border for many a long year.

The ridden coloured horses and ponies under saddle and in hand always provide a great spectacle. The latter moved timetable to Friday to allow access to the The Price Family qualifier, with this year’s representative coming in the shape a very pretty little yearling skewbald gelding, Withymead Captain Crunchie, owned by Kirsty Miller, from Auchterarder, and produced by the Nicoll Show Team.

There was plenty of room to show off the ridden coloured exhibits of which the eventual champion took full advantage. Another from Lancashire, the non-native pony winner was the quality, well marked skewbald mare, Wards Place Photogenic, owned and bred by by Janet Hindley and produced by Karl Morris. A previous HOYS qualifier, her season has gone from strength to strength with an early win at Royal Windsor and more recently at Royal Cheshire.

This section made an interesting and popular finale to show's light horse section, where large numbers of entries meant that some classes had to be split. With good numbers in many others a feature of the show, it has to be one of the best on record this century.

According to the far-travelled professionals and producers, it has been the best of the season so far, one of the best run and friendliest on the circuit, ‘classy’ to quote some and situated on the best showground in Britain. These words of encouragement augur well for the future and hopefully give heart to the hard working team who make it all happen.