A rider making her first major competitive appearance for more than seven years beat the form book to lift the coveted Ponies (UK) supreme winter championship title at Arena UK.

Sam Smith, who has Bill Ireland’s super home-bred Dales gelding, Kilmannan Black Piper, on lease for the season, qualified for the championships on her first outing with the pony two weeks previously. She decided to make the long trip from Ayrshire mainly to support her sister, Penny Clifford, with her ponies, and compete herself “just for the experience”.

But Sam’s nerves held strong in an electric evening atmosphere and the result exceeded all hopes as the gleaming black seven-year-old gelding headed marathon entries to claim the Llanarth ridden M&M title, before lifting the ultimate honour. The following day, the pair returned to take the Lee-Smith (home-produced) Llanarth title.

Torrential rain throughout the weekend turned the outdoor facilities at Arena UK into a mudbath, but with conditions the same for everyone, a remarkably cheerful atmosphere prevailed among exhibitors.

The standard of presentation of animals forward for the evening indoor gala performances gave little hint of the difficulties being faced. And, barring a couple of communication glitches, both evenings ran smoothly, although some ponies – understandably – appeared a little short of work.

The reserve supreme award went to another delighted recipient. Angela Schumann’s home-bred intermediate mare, Snettisham Summer Blues, was foot-perfect to give Suffolk-based rider/producer Petrina Theobald her first Ponies (UK) title since winning on a Dartmoor at the Summer Championships some 10 years ago.

It was a good weekend altogether for the pair who collected four wins in all, including the confined novice competition horse class and the 158cm section of the Downland Smuggler WHP, where they also stood reserve.

Supreme judge Gail Chapman had a superb line-up from which to make her choices and her second reserve was the experienced lead-rein pony, Colne champion Rookery Souffle. Now in his second season with the Jackson family, Souffle had already notched up three titles from three outings this term.

  • For a full report on the Ponies (UK) Winter Championships see Horse & Hound issue dated 3 May 2001.