Showjumpers Nicola Foad and Rachel Proudley took centre-stage as the curtain rose on the 2021 Horse of the Year Show at Resorts World Arena, NEC in Birmingham.
Wednesday’s action in the Andrews Bowen International Arena began with the NAF Five Star Bronze and NAF Five Star Silver league championships, and both opening competitions did not disappoint.
For Somerset-based PE teacher Nicola, it proved an unforgettable occasion as she took the bronze championship following a brilliant performance on the 21-year-old gelding, Potsdam Junior.
Asked five years ago by the horse’s owner Vanessa Henessy if she would like to ride the horse, Nicola had no hesitation in accepting the invitation, and they delivered an immaculate display to clock a jump-off time of 29.29 seconds, edging Holly Gair and LGS Survivor into second place, with Kelly Read taking third aboard LK Pick N Mix.
“About five years ago, Vanessa asked me if I wanted to start riding him, and here we are!” said an elated Nicola, who was given the day off school for the biggest occasion of her riding life.”I knew I just had to go in the jump-off. If we ever make a mistake, it’s me, not him. I can’t believe we got here, then to be clear and win – I think I screamed when we finished! He is not a particularly fast horse, but he just listens to me. He doesn’t necessarily look that fast, but we never have an argument or anything like that on the turns.”
Sixteen-year-old Rachel, who is from North Yorkshire, emerged victorious from a keenly-contested silver championship jump-off after eight combinations made it through.
Defending champion Gemma Hallett was first to go on her 2020 winner Billy Jive, and they set the bar high, clocking 30.49 seconds that threw down a marker to her rivals. But Rachel and Cartino III, a 14-year-old grey gelding, clipped 33 hundredths off Gemma’s time to take the class, with Imogen Yule and Blonde Ambition IV finishing third.
“I had a plan in my head of what I had to do, and thankfully it worked,” Rachel said. “I watched a couple go in the jump-off, and it was fast. But I knew what I had to do, and he is an experienced horse. He has been around for a while, and he is very careful and brave.”
* Audio interview with NAF Five Star Bronze League Championship winner Nicola Foad.
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