What better way to open the 2021 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) than with the elegant spectacle of the Mears Flooring Ladies Side Saddle Horse of the Year final and a two-time Champion being crowned in the Andrews Bowen International Arena. As a keen, early-morning audience lost themselves in times gone by, judging got underway of the 20 impeccably turned out horses with riders dressed in their graceful habits.
Francoise Babington and her own Seabourne Silent Valley upped their winning 2019 performance to reclaim the title; the 12-year-old Thoroughbred having clearly missed his time in the spotlight last year! “He was brighter in there today,” said Francoise. “He gave a beautiful, faultless performance and the ride judge was very sympathetic with all the horses and rode him spot on.” Francoise has owned the gelding for four years. He hacks out at home every day and winters out in the field looking after the racehorses; clearly a formula that works perfectly to keep him fresh for the show ring.
Encapsulated in a bygone era, spectators witnessed another seasoned HOYS competitor take the spoils in the Horse & Country Harness Horse and Pony of the Year Championship. Neil Wray and his own Hackney stallion, Plains Royalty, made it a hat trick by claiming their third consecutive Championship title here at HOYS. “He’s very lightly shown,” said a delighted Neil who broke the now 10-year-old to harness as a two and a half year old. “He’s got the presence, manners and cadence, while also knowing his job and being able to get on with it… We’re very blessed to have such a lovely horse.”
The last Championship of the morning presented an opportunity to see versatility at its best in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse of the Year Championship. The line up of ex-racehorses to have swapped the racetrack for the arena was as strong as ever, and this year the ‘Arena of Dreams’ did not disappoint in making one rider’s lifetime dream come true.
Top of Katie Dashwood’s bucket list has always been to ride at HOYS and it was her horse Minella Rebellion, full brother to Cheltenham Festival winner and Grand National runner-up Balthazar King, who helped her tick it off. Katie, who comes from a racing background, said: “I’ve waited all my life for this moment, since going to HOYS to watch as a child when it was at Wembley! He [Minella Rebellion] just loves being a show horse – I think he knows he’s won!” Reg, as he is known at home, raced five times in his career, the last in 2017 as a five-year-old, but never won a race. Katie acquired him last year and he has been based with showing producer Jo Bates since February.
Over in the TopSpec Arena the Mountain & Moorland ponies had been competing since sunrise. When it came to the turn of the younger riders to compete for the Colne and The Feed Shed Mountain & Moorland Mini Pony of the Year Championship, the atmosphere was full of excitement. Four combinations were invited back; the first and second placed combinations from the Lead Rein and First Ridden sections.
The overall Championship was awarded to the winner of the Colne Mountain & Moorland Lead Rein Pony of the Year, Dartmoor pony, Shilstone Rocks Thunderbird owned by Brogan West and ridden by her four-year-old daughter Willow West. Willow was accompanied by showing producer John Harvey in the ring and the combination have only been together since the middle of last year. “We were looking for something safe for Willow to ride and he’s such a good breed type with lots of limb and quality. He’s also really comfortable for the kids to ride,” said John. Willow has ridden since she was two and does a bit of everything with ‘Argo’, as he is known at home.
Reserve Champion was the winner of The Feed Shed Mountain & Moorland First Ridden Pony of the Year, Blisland Echo, owned by Hannah Lee and ridden by Tommy Lee.
Today’s champions under saddle will all go forward to Sunday’s Supreme Products Supreme Horse or Supreme Products Supreme Pony of the Year Championships.
For more information on Horse of the Year Show 2021, please contact Horse of the Year Show Press Office, Grandstand Media Ltd. Tel: 02476 858205. Email: [email protected]