Every title won at HOY is hard-fought and well-earned, but there’s a very special one in show hunter that this year will mark a poignant anniversary for many.

In 2008, Denise Crispe died suddenly just two days after she headed home a very competitive field – including Sir Mark Todd – to win the Open Show Hunter crown. For the amateur competitor who adored her horses and would never hesitate to help others, it was a huge highlight in a lifelong equestrian career. She had twice won the amateur title, but never for a moment had contemplated an open win.

Her family donated the Denise Crispe Memorial Trophy for the winner of the amateur title, and this year her mum Dianne will also present a beautiful silver stirrup necklace, with the other nine in the final line-up receiving silver dove lapel pins.

HOY is hard for Dianne and it has been seven years since she attended the show. “I decided I would be kind to myself and stay away but this year I really want to do this for Denise . . . to remember her,” said Dianne, who now lives in Pukekohe.

It’s been a challenging run for her – in 2013 her husband Graham died from a heart attack and then her remaining child, son Paul passed away in 2017 from the same condition that struck Denise. “I can accept Graham’s because people have heart attacks, but the children . . . and they still don’t really know what cause it aside to say it is genetic.”

She takes solace in her animals, and particularly Billy her rescue “muttly”. “He’s beneath your knees and yellow,” she says of his breeding. “Denise was such a special person. I know I am her mum, but she never said anything nasty about anyone. I admire her so much for that – she lived for her horses and her golden retriever Gatsby. He was a guide dog who didn’t quite make the grade and I lost him just before Paul died. I take one day at a time.”

She’s looking forward to seeing many of Denise’s friends at HOY. The support she has had from some has been quite incredible. “Rosalie Haddock has rung me nearly every single night since Denise died. That is really special.”

She’s thankful too for the help she has had in creating the 10th anniversary awards. Amy Trafford designed the stirrup and the little doves. “Denise loved doves. We released them when she was buried and they are on her head stone. I miss her horrendously but I am really looking forward to doing the special presentations this year.”

The Amateur Show Hunter of the Year will be awarded on Friday 15th March at Horse of the Year.