This award is to celebrate our equestrian hero of today, the horse who is at the top of his or her game and is a pure joy to watch.
The winner of the Bloomfields Horse of the Year 2021 is Explosion W.
12yo Dutch-bred gelding, Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet
Rider: Ben Maher
Owners: Charlotte Rossetter, Pamela Wright and rider
Breeder: W Wijnen
Once in a while, a horse comes to the fore with a talent so breathtaking, scope that is seemingly unlimited and an overriding instinct to win, but uber-horse Explosion W has taken these attributes to a whole new level. This phenomenal gelding’s rider Ben Maher describes him as “not normal” – “the best I’ll ever ride”. Who will ever forget the manner in which The BFG, as he is known at home, seemingly sprouted wings with his Frankel-esque turn of speed to topple five world-class combinations and win Olympic gold in Tokyo?
“I’ve had many good horses in my career, but I won’t ride another one like him again, and that’s a big statement,” says Ben of the Chacco-Blue gelding, who was bred in the Netherlands. “We have a really special bond.”
This year’s other nominees were:
10yo Dutch-bred gelding, Apache x Tango
Rider: Charlotte Dujardin
Owners: Renai Hart, Carl Hester and rider
Breeder: HJ de Jong
Gio, ridden by Charlotte Dujardin, led the British team to bronze in Tokyo this summer, before taking individual bronze on his major championship debut. As if that wasn’t enough, the following month he was on his second major championship team, winning European team silver and individual freestyle bronze, and all at just 10 years of age.
Known as “Pumpkin” at home, and smaller than his stablemates at 16hh, Gio is a pocket rocket who finds the grand prix work easy and Charlotte believes he could win gold at a future championship.
10yo Holsteiner gelding, Diarado x Cantano
Rider: Nicola Wilson
Owners: James and Jo Lambert and Deirdre Johnston
Breeder: Volker Göttsche-Götze
Nicola Wilson’s stunning 10-year-old ride has come of age this year, starting with winning the huge CCI4*-L at Bicton in June. He went on to triumph at Hartpury CCI4*-S before claiming individual gold and leading the Brits to team gold at the European Eventing Championships. JL Dublin is German-bred by Diarado. Nicola chose the Holsteiner at the sales in Germany for his owners.
“I thought he was very nicely put-together and he has a lovely eye,” said Nicola at Bicton. “Since working with him as a young horse, I sensed that he was a star in the making. But he was quite boisterous until he got to this level of training, when he’s really started to knuckle down and focus and use that energy in a positive way rather than against me.”
Toledo De Kerser
14yo Selle Français gelding, Diamant De Semilly x Papillon Rouge
Rider: Tom McEwen
Owners: Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Ali McEwen
Breeder: Kerstin Drevet
Guest editor Pippa Funnell picked out Toledo to feature in H&H in February and said: “Toledo has fabulous movement and the wow-factor for dressage. He’s bold and can gallop – he has a huge impressive engine. His showjumping record speaks for itself; he looks like he could do the pure showjumper job.”
Six months later, the horse collected eventing team gold and individual silver at the Tokyo Olympics with Tom McEwen. The jumping-bred Toledo won Pau five-star in 2019 and has finished in the top 12 at five other five-stars, as well as contributing to Britain’s world team gold in 2018.
Although he is supremely talented, he is also tricky and his success is testament to Tom’s patience and skill in getting the best from him.
Previous winners of this award include:
- 2020: the legendary Valegro was crowned the horse of the decade (2011-2020) by H&H readers
- 2019: Piggy French’s ride Vanir Kamira may be “a pain in the arse 352 days a year”, but this true five-star horse “comes into her own at Badminton and Burghley”
- 2018: Arctic Soul, the former racehorse turned elite eventer, ridden by Gemma Tattersall
- 2017: Nip Tuck, Carl Hester’s outstanding equine partner
- 2016: Valegro, the elite dressage star and world record breaker, ridden by Charlotte Dujardin
About the Horse & Hound Awards 2021
We’re back! The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the sixth year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF.
Last year’s successful online H&H Awards achieved record participation, with nearly 58,000 votes cast. We were thrilled to be back in person for 2021, with a glittering ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse. Around 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, gathered to enjoy a glamorous evening of champagne and dancing as the winners were revealed.
As previously, the H&H Award winners have been nominated and voted for by you. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2021 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.