Rachel Hall makes her return to HOYS one to remember winning the NAF Five Star Bronze League Championship

Rachel Hall makes her return to HOYS one to remember winning the NAF Five Star Bronze League Championship

Kicking off the proceedings on day one of Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), held at the NEC in Birmingham, was the NAF Five Star Bronze & NAF Five Star Silver League Championships.

In the jump off for the Bronze League final, Rachel Hall was third to go out of five combinations who had jumped clear in the class. Riding bay mare Renkum Balousina, the pressure was on to not only beat the clock, but to leave the fences standing.

As the unbeatable duo dashed down to the finish, Rachel’s determination was clear as she took off a stride early to clear the last fence in a time of 32.59 – a third of a second quicker than the time to beat.

Rachel, who is based in Malvern in Worcestershire, is no stranger to HOYS, having previously won the Pony Foxhunter Championship in 1987 when she was 16-years-old and HOYS was at Wembley. She then had a break from riding for 20 years to focus on raising her two children and support them through their riding career.

Rachel said: “Balousina was actually bought for my daughter Charlotte but since she went to university and moved to live in Durham I decided to take over the ride and began competing again three years ago. To return to HOYS and win this class 36 years later is quite a shock, I can’t believe it. I am so excited to be back!”

The family have owned and produced Balousina since she was a just broken four-year-old and she is very much part of the family.

“It has been a long time, but it was so good to be back, and I am really proud of her [Balousina]. We tried to keep it steady in the jump off so we could get our turns in and then I just went for the last fence. She did it!”

Lucy Gilbertson crowned the NAF Five Star Silver League Champion

The stage was set in the Andrews Bowen International Arena for the NAF Five Star Silver League Championship jump off. With only three combinations jumping clear in the first part of the class, there was no room for error.

The youngest competitor in the class, 17-year-old Lucy Gilbertson, showed the crowd that age was just a number as she stormed into the lead with one rider left to go. Finishing on a double clear in a time of 33.58 seconds, Lucy demonstrated great precision riding her father’s beautiful 15-year-old grey mare, Hip Girl.

“We’ve only had her for about eight months so this is our first big show together,” said Lucy. “She felt amazing in there today, she was really excited and had a special energy about her. My only game plan was to keep the fences up, because the rider before me knocked the last fence. Thankfully the careful turns paid off and she jumped incredible.”

Having previously competed at HOYS in the 138cm class in 2019, Lucy explained what it was like to be back. “I was a bit less nervous this year, I think as I’ve gotten older, I have learnt to cope with the pressure a bit better and stay focused on the course. I couldn’t have asked for more from her today.”

Based in Hertfordshire, Lucy said she owed her win to her great team of coaches, Amanda Petts, Julie Petts and Annette Lewis.

Both competitors, Rachel Hall and Lucy Gilbertson wish to express their thanks to NAF for sponsoring the series.

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