Country & Stable Horse of the Year Award
2016 winner: Valegro
This award is to celebrate our equestrian hero of today, the horse or pony who is at the top of his or her game and is pure joy to watch in the flesh and on our screens and the winner was Valegro. As the man himself wasn’t able to attend the ceremony (the steps into the Pavilion at Ascot racecourse proved a challenge too far even for this incredible equine!), the award was collected by his joint owners Roly Luard and Anne Barrott.
The Country & Stable Horse of the Year Award nominees
Chilli Morning: The stallion retires to stud with a brilliant British team record. He and William Fox-Pitt have been the best Team GBR pair in all three of the horse’s championship appearances, taking individual bronze at the 2013 Europeans and the 2014 World Equestrian Games (and team silver), and finishing 12th in the Rio Olympics this year. Chilli is the only stallion to have won Badminton.
William says that riding Chilli in Rio was a major motivator in his rehab after his serious head injury and the horse was forgiving when he was riding with double vision: “Chilli didn’t mind me missing on him. There were always two jumps and I didn’t know until I was one stride away which one to jump.”
This title would be a fitting way to mark the end of Chilli’s glittering competition career.
Rule The World: The nine-year-old gelding bounced back from serious injury to win this year’s Grand National at Aintree under first-time National jockey David Mullins.
The racing career of the Mouse Morris-trained son of Sulamani has been plagued by injury, including two pelvis fractures — making his triumph in the world’s greatest steeplechase all the more impressive.
The gelding went into the great race relatively inexperienced compared to his rivals, having never won over fences before, though he had finished second on seven occasions. However, he relished the wet conditions as he beat The Last Samuri into second.
Ireland-based Mouse described the win as “unbelievable, fairytale stuff — I’ve always thought he was the best horse I’ve had”.
Big Star: Against all the odds, Gary and Beverley Widdowson’s 13-year-old stallion made a spectacular comeback this year to win Olympic gold with Nick Skelton.
“I always thought Big Star was special,” says Nick, and he’s proved to be a real star, but in Rio he became a legend, producing clear after clear in the individual competition.
The son of Quick Star is so enthusiastic that he neighs when he sees the fences, and powered round with ears pricked, showing unlimited scope over the towering Olympic obstacles. In the jump-off, when Olympic glory hinged on one crucial performance, Big Star willingly gave Nick the ride of his life.
Only a horse of this stature could produce not one, but two Olympic gold medal-winning performances four injury-stricken years apart — the one and only Big Star.
Valegro: “He is a complete legend,” said Charlotte Dujardin about the 16.2hh KPWN gelding having taken the freestyle gold medal in Rio — and it wasn’t an overstatement.
All eyes were on “Blueberry” as he took to the Olympic arena last month to reclaim the title from London. It wasn’t just the equestrian media that waited with bated breath, but this time journalists from national newspapers had been dispatched to stand ringside to check out the fuss about this dancing horse.
Valegro rose to the challenge in spectacular style, smashing the Olympic record (although not the world record the pair had previously set) with a score of 93.857%.
“I never want anyone to compare any horse I ride to Valegro,” said Charlotte, through tears. “There will never be another like him.”
Time 2 Reflect: Time 2 Reflect is rarely out of the ribbons, and this year she stood supreme champion at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) after going through the hunter card for the second year running.
Owned by Dianne Stennett, produced by team Jayne Ross/Carol Bardo and ridden by Jayne, this mare’s highlight is her gallop. Her trademark is to mesmerise judges and spectators alike by her ability to accelerate and travel at spine-tingling speed (which is particularly special around the RIHS international arena), before coming to a standstill and not moving, even when Jayne has dropped the reins.
The nine-year-old, who is by Cameo’s Reflection out of a Relkino mare, has an equally delightful character to match her supremacy in the show ring.
About our sponsor: Country & Stable
Country and Stable is delighted to be able to sponsor the Horse & Hound Horse of the Year award.
Country and Stable offers a wide range of equestrian and country clothing, accessories, leather work and boots to suit every budget. We have a store in the heart of Olney in Buckinghamshire and a dedicated customer service team with a wealth of experience between them in all spheres. We also offer free delivery on all orders over £35.
Nearly every member of staff at Country and Stable owns a horse, we have therefore sponsored this award to recognise some of the truly great horses that this sport has seen and make sure that their efforts are awarded too. We are all passionate about our hobby and all think life would not be the same without horses.
There have been some truly inspirational horses over the years that have inspired many of generations into the sport we all know and love. We are looking forward to seeing who your ‘Greats’ of the horse world are, and which horses have inspired you!