When I was seven, my parents made a big mistake. They bought me a pony. It’s a vaguely horsey family. My mother’s family keep horses – Welsh ponies and Thoroughbreds – and my great-grandfather took care of ponies working in the mines. They thought, ‘where’s the harm?’
The pony was a black, Welsh section A named Sooty. I was horribly over-horsed and he took full advantage. He was incredibly naughty. Yet I was hooked.
A few years later, with Sooty a distant memory, my great uncle Breian decided it was time that I was useful, and roped me into helping him with his homebred section As. I probably should have been put-off the minute the colts started to clamber up the sides of the lorry. But, again, I was hooked.
That’s where the showing bug took hold and I’ve never managed to shake it off. Fast forwards a few more years, my little sister, Maggie, was also pony-mad. We were at a local show when a chance encounter with a local producer shaped our goals. He told us that we should be looking to qualify for this thing called HOYS. Flattered he thought our ponies up to the job, we did as he said.
We never looked back. Between competing, stewarding the Welsh in-hand classes at the Royal Welsh and taking an increasing interest in the breeding of Welsh ponies and cobs, we became immersed in the ‘native scene’.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to have been supported along the way by breeders, instructors and unofficial mentors, but even luckier to have happened upon some superb ponies. I won’t list them, but here’s a top three. Powysvalley Tobago taught us so much. He was so ‘gassy’ that his trips to HOYS were ‘interesting’, and he still enjoys being hilariously naughty at a ripe old age. Then came Yrallt Mayday Surprise, who, to date is the only section C to stand ridden champion at HOYS, been twice best of breed at Olympia, reserve champion at RIHS, champion at the Royal Welsh and thrice National Welsh ridden champion. And later, came my own pony of a lifetime, Ballynacoy Prince. He’s won HOYS, stood Olympia Best of Breed, champion at Great Yorkshire and plenty more, including teaching BBC One presenter, Adrian Chiles, how to show in-hand! I adore him.
In early adulthood, I labelled my life with horses a ‘serious hobby’. Teaching secondary English was my profession, until I started to write about my ponies and the sport, and found I rather enjoyed it. Fast-forwards a few years to skip the dull bits, and that, in a nutshell, is how you find me here, as editor of Showing World and The Native Pony Magazine.
I haven’t forgotten those early days. I still remember what it was to soak in every morsel of advice that the showing stars offered, and how exciting it was to see my own pony in print alongside those famous faces. That’s why you’ll find a mixture of pros and aspiring amateurs in our reports, and plenty of interviews and training features to satiate your appetite for all things showing.
I just hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy finding the stories to bring to you.