When Horse of the Year opened entries for 2024 there were two youngsters ready and waiting.
Paige and Phoebe Hunter had already made the lists with mum Bec of what they would enter and were officially the first across the line for the much-anticipated show.
It’s been a tough few months for the family, who lost dad and husband Roger in October, and the ponies have been a welcome distraction.
The family are no stranger to LRHOY. Until recently, Bec was the marketing and sponsorship liaison and as a teen competed in show hunter and showjumping. Eleven-year-old Paige already has three LRHOYs under her belt, but eight-year-old Phoebe is on debut . . . and she can’t wait.
Both girls will compete in showing. Phoebe and Pine Eyre Painted Picture – Polly to her mates – are in the lead rein and Paige in the open. Phoebe heads to LRHOY in good form with champions and reserves proudly hanging on her wall from this season and a full show schedule ahead for January.
Paige and Windermere Love Story – aptly named Cheeky at home – are in the open showing where Paige will generally be up against riders much older than her and even adults in the rising star class.
But they are very excited. “They are both all about the garlands! To them LRHOY is the cream of the cream. This is what we build up to,” says Bec. “The girls both have such cool good show friends. They may not see them for six months and then show season rolls around.”
Bec says the camaraderie and friendships built in equestrian are special and long lived. “I love catching up with old friends and of course the social side of the show,” she says.
Show days are rather hectic, with two girls and two ponies to turn out perfectly as well as herself for the lead rein classes. “I dress up like Mary Poppins,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t have lots of helpers so do love it when I get a hand. The girls don’t ride at the same time now, so it is easier to focus on one at a time.”
She can’t wait for the girls to progress to jumping. “As much as we love showing, the jumping will be fun. If they take a rail, then that decides the result. Showing is what a judge likes on the day.”