Our experts pick the riders who have parachuted onto the Horse & Hound readers’ radar in 2017 and are worth following in 2018
After a couple of near-miss results at four-star when an annoying 20 penalties has kept her off the podium, the 31-year-old rider pulled off an eye-catching fifth place at Badminton in the spring on Allstar B, the best British result.
The diminutive rider and her giant partner were then selected for their first senior championship, the Europeans in Poland. There they went beyond all expectations when they added just 1.6 time-faults across country to a personal best dressage to finish fifth individually and help Britain to team gold.
Ros also proved she’s no one-horse wonder with two top 10 four-star placings on Zenshera.
2. Alex Bragg
The 37-year-old made a striking start to his Badminton debut, lying eighth after cross-country. Sadly he withdrew Zagreb from the holding box at the final horse inspection, but the British selectors noticed his efforts and he was short-listed for the European Championships.
Although he didn’t make the final squad, Alex had a great summer and autumn season with Zagreb, finishing in the top eight in the CIC3* at Aachen, the British open championship, the Event Rider Masters final at Blenheim and Pau CCI4*.
A former semi-professional rugby player, Alex is articulate with the media and looks set to be an asset to British eventing.
3. Sharn Linney, showing producer
Wolverhampton-based show pony producer Sharn Linney filled a gap on her impressive CV when leading Thistledown Van Der Vaart (“Charles”) to supreme pony glory at HOYS in October — the first time Sharn has won the top title here.
Sharn and Charles had already entered the record books when they nailed a third successive mountain and moorland mini title, the pony ridden on the lead-rein by Olivia Brightmore.
Sharn has only been producing for a handful of years and originally juggled two jobs — bar work and accountancy — to fund it. The 27-year-old took nine ponies to Birmingham this term and eight of them achieved top six placings in their finals.
4. Izzy Palmer, para dressage rider
If you hadn’t come across Izzy Palmer’s name at the start of 2017, you should have by now.
The 17-year-old grade IV para rider, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, competed at her first foreign international this year, coming away from Deauville with a double victory, and just three months later she was named as a reserve for the European Championship para team, riding her mentor Sophie Wells’ Touchdown M.
She and “Touch” went on to successfully defend their grade title at the BD national championships, also achieving the highest score across all five grades. Expect big things to come in 2018.
5. Hayley Watson-Greaves, dressage rider
Gloucestershire-based Hayley and the 13-year-old Rubin Royal son Rubins Nite have been one of Britain’s most consistent international grand prix combinations this year, making the shortlist for the European Championships after good results at Windsor, Compiègne and Bolesworth CDIs.
Their season peaked in September when excellent performances across the board earned them the title of national champions at the BD championships, and the pair have since made an excellent start to their World Cup campaign, with mid-70% scores and top 10 placings in Lyon and Stuttgart. Hayley and “Squeaks” will be fighting hard for a spot on the WEG 2018 squad, and they shouldn’t be ruled out.
6. Nigel Coupe
This has truly been an astounding year for Lancashire rider Nigel Coupe. Among the 46-year-old’s lengthy list of victories in 2017 is the Hickstead Derby, the coveted Cock o’ the North at Great Yorkshire and the leading showjumper of the year title at HOYS in October. Even more remarkably, each of these prestigious titles was won with the same horse, the amazingly versatile Irish 14-year-old gelding Golvers Hill, a former working hunter he co-owns with Susan Simmons.
“I say it’s amazing every time, but at the moment it truly is,” said Nigel, who also represented his country in Nations Cups and at Aachen.
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7. Oliver Fletcher
In a rather sparse year for British showjumping, the youth teams shone brighter than ever, returning home from the European Championships with a raft of individual and team medals. One rider who has shown tremendous flare in the competition ring with expert horsemanship in the saddle this year is Oliver Fletcher.
The 14-year-old helped Great Britain secure team gold at the children’s championships in Samorin, where he also won individual bronze, jumping clear throughout on Disckoboy DN.
The son of Tina and Graham Fletcher has all the qualities needed to reach the top tier, already stacking up international grands prix on his CV — watch this space.
8. Harry Cobden
The 19-year-old rode out his conditional claim when winning the Scottish County Hurdle in February for his boss Paul Nicholls and was crowned the 2016/2017 Stobart champion conditional jockey — his riding career has since gone from strength- to-strength.
With the Grade One 2016 Fighting Fifth Hurdle already tucked under his belt, 2017 proved fruitful for the pony-racing and point-to-point graduate. He went on to win this year’s Topham Chase — over the Grand National fences at Aintree — aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Ultragold.
This year has seen the cool-headed teenager pick up more and more rides for the Tizzard team and in November it was announced he would be taking over the ride on one of their stablestars, Cue Card.
This article was first published in the 14 December 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine