Black Nova Designs Event Horse of the Year 2023

Welcome to the Horse & Hound Awards 2023, which are back for the eighth year to celebrate the stars of equestrianism, in partnership with NAF

  • The winner from these four outstanding event horses, who have thrilled the crowds with their skill and bravery across the disciplines, has been revealed

    The winner of the Black Nova Designs Event Horse of the Year 2023 is Lordships Graffalo.

    Ridden by Ros Canter and owned by Michele Saul, this British-bred gelding, who is affectionally known at home as Walter, claimed eventing’s two top prizes this year when he won Badminton and the Europeans. Still relatively young for the top level, the 11-year-old performed outstandingly over tough ground conditions across country at both events.

    At Badminton, Walter led from the front and won by a record-breaking 15 penalties, and at the Europeans, he was the only horse to finish inside the time across country. Lordships Graffalo was bred by Lordships Stud, by Grafenstolz out of a Rock King mare.

    Unfortunately Ros was unable to attend the H&H Awards ceremony owing to a clash with another engagement, but she sent us this video.

    The award was collected on the night by Ros’s long-time competition groom, Sarah Charnley, who we caught up with after the presentation.

    “It’s Walter’s world and we are privileged to be able to live with him in it,” said Ros Canter after winning double gold at the European Championships. “It’s an absolute privilege to ride Walter and to have him in our life – not only is he a great horse to ride, he has character in abundance too,” said Ros at Badminton. “He gives his all, all the time and he loves the job he does.”

    The other three event horses who made the shortlist for the Black Nova Designs Event Horse of the Year 2023 are:

    Ballaghmor Class

    16yo Irish Sport Horse gelding, Courage II x unlisted
    Rider: Oliver Townend.
    Owners: Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan.
    Breeder: Noel Hickey
    Stable name: Thomas

    Burghley 2023 marked this incredible campaigner’s third five-star win and his 10th top-five finish at the level – and he’s an Olympic team gold medallist. too.

    “He’s a proper event horse,” said Oliver Townend after Ballaghmor Class’s second Burghley win, six years after his first. “If they brought back long format tomorrow, he’d still come out on top. He’s a fighter and his pedigree and mentality help hugely. Whatever era you put this horse in, he’d win.”

    Only one other horse has won at five-star after such a gap – La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, who landed wins seven years apart. Since his debut win at Burghley 2017, “Thomas” hasn’t missed a top-level long-format event spring or autumn, bar in the Covid-struck year of 2020.

    London 52

    14yo Holsteiner gelding, Landos x Quinar Z
    Rider: Laura Collett.
    Owners: Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett and rider.
    Breeder: Ocke Riewerts
    Stable name: Dan

    After a Badminton win last year, Laura hoped to defend her title, but an overreach meant she re-routed London 52 to Luhmühlen. There, “Dan” stayed on his leading dressage score and became the fourth horse to win three different five-stars – they also won Pau 2020.

    “He’s my horse of a lifetime and I will never sit on another like him,” said Laura. “He has such a reputation that I don’t want to let him down; he deserves to be a multiple five-star winning horse, so I’m glad I’ve allowed him to be that. I’m so proud of him because he’s not a natural cross-country horse – he’s had to learn to be one. He stormed round that track, making it feel so easy.”

    The pair also finished ninth at the Europeans and helped Britain to team gold.

    Galileo Nieuwmoed

    12yo KWPN (Dutch Warmblood) gelding, Carambole x Harcos
    Rider: David Doel.
    Owner: Gillian Jonas
    Breeder: JW & AP Jurrius.
    Stable name: Galileo

    Galileo Nieuwmoed has won fans for his super jumping and his consistency at five-star. With fourth, sixth and eighth at the level already on his record, he and David Doel were Burghley runners-up this year. The partnership grew from inauspicious beginnings, when previous owner Joy Dawes insisted David take Galileo to sell for her.

    “He was stuffy, wouldn’t really go and had slightly flat front feet and fat, puffy joints,” remembers David. “My flatwork trainer, Adam Kemp, was instrumental in getting him to go in front of my leg. Because of that work, he found his gallop and turned into a different horse. He’s pretty cool to ride now and so versatile – he can do short format, long format and he has so much scope. I love him to bits.”

    Previous winners of the Horse of the Year Award across all equestrian disciplines include:

    • 2022: Vanir Kamira, the much-loved veteran mare, who added Burghley to her previous Badminton win – and became the first horse to win this title twice
    • 2021: the world’s best showjumper and Olympic champion Explosion W, ride of Ben Maher
    • 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 2023

    The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the eighth year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF.

    As ever, the H&H Awards winners were nominated and voted for by you. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2023 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.

    This year, we hosted a glittering ceremony at Dallas Burston Polo Club in Warwickshire where some 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, enjoyed a glamorous evening of champagne, winner reveals, Oscar-style speeches and dancing.

    You may like...