The 72nd Horse of the Year Show opened in thrilling fashion on Wednesday with the week’s first showjumping champions crowned.

The NAF Five Star Silver League Championship and NAF Five Star Bronze League Championship took centre-stage as riders from across the country battled for places on HOYS’ roll of honour.

And leaving her Taunton base at three o’clock on Wednesday morning proved completely worth it for Gemma Hallet, who landed the Silver Championship title aboard 13-year-old chestnut mare Billy Jive.

They have enjoyed a prolific partnership, once claiming more than 20 victories in one year, and that quality was underlined at the NEC, Birmingham.

Nine combinations made it through to the jump-off, with Stephanie Gunn and Jagerbomb setting a scorching pace, going clear in 30.23 seconds, but Gemma clipped 62 hundredths of a second off that time, while Imogen Yule and Blonde Ambition IV finishing third.

“There are not many things I get up at 3am for, but this was well worth it,” Gemma said. “The occasion is so big – it is what everyone dreams of.

“I saw Stephanie go first, and she went quick, so the concensus was to have a go and if we had a pole down, we had a pole down.

“I am lucky with the horse in that I completely trust her, and we very rarely have a pole unless I completely mess something up. She tries so hard.

“She has been so consistent and won so many classes, and to win here feels like we have achieved our goal.”

The Bronze Championship crown went to Buckingham’s Katie Robinson, and it proved a comprehensive victory on the bay mare Mervs Thanks a Million II.

Third to go among five in the jump-off, Katie’s time of 29.80 seconds was almost eight seconds clear of the field, as Jake Jones guided White Well Augusta Rio into the runner-up position, with Louise McDonald and Fanta-astic in third.

Katie said: “It is a dream come true. I had never got the chance to compete here before. so I was nervous, but I felt like a winner just getting here.

“I just went for it in the jump-off, and it is an amazing feeling to win.

“She is 13. She hates everyone, but she loves me, and that’s the main thing!”

  • Audio link to interview with NAF Five Star Silver League Championship winner Gemma Hallet.
  • Audio link to NAF Five Star Bronze League Championship winner Katie Robinson.


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