We are thrilled to welcome back the British Equestrian Vaulters at Horse of the Year Show 2018 with their brand new and exclusive “Show Time” performance. There is one pivotal member of the team who has travelled all over the world with the team – meet W.H.Bentley aka Henry, the team’s main vaulting horse.
The Eccles family spotted the black gelding when he was five years old but were unsure if he would be suited to vaulting due to a slightly short back. His Dales pony x warmblood breeding was also something out of the ordinary but Henry turned out to be the perfect vaulting horse, competing at every major World and European Championships from 2002 to 2016.
His 4th at the 2007 European Vaulting Championships was the trigger point of a great career; to be so close to the medals had been unimaginable for a British Vaulter up until then, and at that moment the Eccles family knew they had something special in Henry. Two years later, Hannah Eccles, Joanna Eccles, their father John Eccles and ‘secret weapon’ Henry won the individual gold medal at the FEI European Championships; the first ever vaulting medal for Great Britain and it was gold! They had been unbeaten throughout the year and it was the start of the Eccles family’s dominance over international vaulting and the journey to 12 medals gleaned at WEG and the European Championships.
Hannah says: “It’s hard to explain but we’ve been vaulting on Henry for so long that it feels almost more natural than walking. Joanne, myself, my dad and Henry; we all really learnt the ropes of vaulting together, at the same time. He has competed at so many international competitions around the world that his passport really is a sight to behold!”
Henry won the CHIO Aachen an incredible seven times over the years as well as a host of other CVI’s around Europe. He even flew out to Qatar and Kentucky for competitions – both of which he won. Initially aimed to be a horse for the individual category, he was called up to be a team horse on several occasions, including at the WEG and the National Championships.
Having a horse consistently winning at the top of sport for such a long time is truly exceptional and this can be explained by Henry’s love of performing.
Hannah continues: “From the moment he steps into every competition ring, he always rises to the occasion. Normally with horses there is always an element of the unknown as to what they will do when they enter a new arena or how they will travel but Henry has always just taken it in his stride.
“Henry has been to HOYS twice and he adores the Show; the lights, the attention especially when the crowd gets involved and starts clapping. Some horses don’t enjoy that but he loves it. We don’t compete him much as we are bringing on our younger horses and he is too precious to risk but we are delighted to bring him to HOYS again because he absolutely loves it here. He may not be the biggest horse in height but he has the biggest heart and presence.”
Henry certainly knows he is the boss around the stables and makes sure everyone knows it too. His favourite thing is to spend time with his best friend Brock in the field and to be taken out on rides and generally keep everyone in check at training.
Hannah concludes: “Henry will never leave his home with us, he is a massive part of our family and he himself has done so much for British vaulting and vaulting in general. I believe none of the successes we have achieved would have been possible without him. There will never be another horse like him.”
The GB Vaulters “Show Time” display can be watched every day of the Show and in both the daytime and the evening performances on the weekend days. For tickets and for more information please visit www.hoys.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0844 581 8282.