Justine Armstong-Small is a professional show rider having won at all major county shows including Royal International and the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) over the past 20 years. Justine enjoys starting horses off from their formative years and bringing them on through novice to open classes. Her passion is in jumping and she is a successful working hunter rider. Justine competes regularly at BSJA up to fox hunter level. With HOYS only a couple of months away (3rd – 7th October 2018) we wanted to catch up with Justine to find out a little more about this prestigious show and her tips to become a HOYS champion…


Justine with Carlingfords Kings at HOYS 2017


When and where is HOYS?


HOYS is held at the NEC in Birmingham, the first week of October every year. Being in the Midlands and easy to assess by train making it a great location for spectators to come and see all the action. There’s lots of hotels to choose from and with a new resort shopping centre with five floors and restaurants there’s lots to do for the non-horsey family too.


How do you get to HOYS, can you just enter or do you have to qualify?


HOYS is the show everyone aims to go to. You have to qualify at one of the various qualifiers held up and down the county from May to September which means you’ll be able to see the crème de la crème competing.



What sort of horse can you take?


There are lots of different classes held from Show Ponies and Hunter Ponies, Mountain & Moorland, Hack, Cobs, Riding Horses, Hunters, Working Hunters, Coloureds, Retained Racehorses, Ridden Arabs and even a Heavy Horse Ridden class. There’s also the prestigious in hand classes so really, to answer your question there is a class pretty much to suit all horses and ponies.



What sort of horse does well there?


HOYS has an electric atmosphere with huge audiences so the horses that do well will be able to cope with a small indoor arena, keep a cool head but still show their star quality.


How do you get to ride in the main arena?


Generally, the ‘horse’ classes take place in the main arena and the ‘ponies’ in the second arena. However, the top two from each class go through to compete in the International main arena so everyone has the chance to compete on the main stage at HOYS.




How is HOYS different to other shows?


HOYS is different because it’s the end of the year final that everyone strives to qualify for throughout the year so to compete there really does top off your year and to win and come down that centre line means everything.


What tips can you give a first time competitor?


Tips for HOYS would be, come prepared, check your warm up times and don’t miss them as that’s your chance to get your horse focused. Time in the arena is precious and once your slot is over that’s it no more practice! Also, be prepared for getting ready in the dark and having to walk a long way to the arenas…bring some good torches! Don’t forget to wear the bridle number when riding and finally, make sure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date and not done within 10 days of the show or you won’t get in.



What makes HOYS so special?


It’s like no other show! It’s magical with all the classes, attractions and big shopping village (perfect for Christmas shopping). All competitors are on top form trying their best to impress the judges and win. It really is a fabulous show for spectators and being able to compete there is always a dream come true.


Best of luck to Justine at HOYS, everyone at SPILLERS will be routing for you! If you’re thinking about attending, you can get all the information you need about tickets, what’s on and planning your visit at http://hoys.co.uk/.