HorseDialog Inspiration of the Year 2022

Welcome to the Horse & Hound Awards 2022, which are back for the seventh year to celebrate the stars of equestrianism, in partnership with NAF.

  • Who has wowed you this year with their determination, spirited achievement or fight against the odds?

    The 2022 winner

    Nicola Wilson: the European champion event rider suffered serious injuries in a fall at Badminton Horse Trials in May

    Nicola spent more than four months in hospital undergoing intensive rehab and physio work as she relearnt basic life skills, and returned home in September. Robyn Gray, who joined Nicola’s yard in January and has been riding her youngsters, won the Burghley young event horse five-year-old title this year, on Jack Of Clubs.

    “Nicola is so positive in everything she’s going through as well as about the yard and horses,” Robyn says. “Her positivity is still rubbing off, although she needs it herself.”

    Nicola said in August: “Obviously I’m not going to be in a position to be competing any more and a lot of the older horses have gone to lovely riders and the younger horses are still doing their five-year-old classes with Robyn, who is doing brilliantly with them. Yes, it will be sad going home to an empty yard, but I’m here and life is to be lived to the full when I come out [of hospital], so I am looking forward to that.”

    Also shortlisted were:

    The late Miranda Filmer: dedicated her life to horses from the age of two, when she started riding

    Miranda went through every class at Pony Club, then helped at camps, hunted from age seven and competed in British Eventing from when she was a teenager to two-star and intermediate level. Miranda was an encyclopaedia about horse racing and thoroughbred bloodlines and a much-loved member of the equestrian community. She spent periods working for eventers including William Fox-Pitt, Polly Williamson, Mike and Emma Winter and Gubby Leech.

    After her diagnosis with neuroendocrine cancer in 2017, she continued to ride and compete. Having achieved a degree in geography, she started studying for a postgraduate degree and worked for horseracing publishing firm Anderson & Co Publishing until a few days before she died in June this year.

    Charles Filmer says his daughter was an “extraordinary human being”.

    “She was equine mad, but also very gifted academically. What she accomplished in her 30 years – and never to complain about cancer – is simply remarkable. She didn’t want to be defined by the disease and she wasn’t afraid of dying. She told us, ‘I’ve had more fun than anyone could and I don’t want everybody to be miserable about my death,’” he says.

    Louise Lea: “superwoman”, according to her friend and trainer Emily Watts

    Louise has primary breast cancer and secondary spine and liver cancer, and her illness is terminal. But despite this “minor inconvenience”, she refuses to admit defeat and treats each day’s challenges as the norm.

    “Louise is the most amazing mother, wife, daughter and true friend, in addition a sheep farmer, businesswoman and a British Dressage competitor,” says Emily. “She is the most inspirational lady striving with endless determination to ensure she achieves her goals.

    “I have trained Louise for three years and watched in awe as she has progressed from novice to advanced medium, climaxing with her qualifying for the Petplan Area Festival finals by finishing second at Field House with her fabulous horse Fanucci [Fungus]. She had her support team in tears and we are all immensely proud of this amazing woman who does not have the word ‘quit’ in her vocabulary.

    “Louise has a great sense of humour, never complains and always strives to be better. Life is to be lived to the full, she does NOT do the sympathy vote.”

    Ashleigh Wicheard: a work rider for trainer Neil Mulholland, won the Magnolia Cup charity race at Goodwood this summer

    Ashleigh, a long-term campaigner for increasing diversity in equestrianism, says although her presence in the paddock on racedays is a good start, a stage such as this was an opportunity not to be missed, and she led the 12 riders in taking the knee before the race.

    “It’s probably the most impactful thing I could have done,” she says. “You can talk a lot and read a lot, but when you see things – actions speak louder than words in some things. I thought very carefully about how I was going to do it. I didn’t want to put pressure on any of the girls in case their families or they weren’t keen on that message, which wouldn’t have been a problem because that’s their choice. But they were so supportive.

    “What an amazing group of women and I think it shows that they knelt in solidarity. I was more anxious about that than riding in the race, because I know that kind of statement can be met with negativity. I just hope it was a positive message that gets portrayed from this.”

    Previous winners of this award include:

    • 2019: Joe Stockdale, 20, put a flourishing career as a cricketer on hold to embrace the daunting prospect of taking on a string of top-class showjumpers when his father Tim died in 2018. In less than a year, Joe, transferred his natural sporting ability to the showjumping ring in phenomenal style, landing a grand prix at Royal Windsor and being picked for the young rider squad at the European Championships.
    • 2018: Daisy Sadler, 73, she travelled nearly 1,000 miles from Banbury via Edinburgh to The Kelpies and back in a traditional horse-drawn wagon pulled by two Brabants (Belgian Drafts) Olive and Arthur, and accompanied by Tad the dog. She raised more than £21,000 for the Imogen Whitby Fund as part of The Brain Tumour Charity.
    • 2017: Julie Payne, the former advanced event rider who was told by her doctor five years earlier that within two years she would be able to neither walk nor speak. In August 2017 she claimed two individual golds at the para dressage European Championships, as well as being on the gold medal-winning team.
    • 2016: the late Hannah Francis, who died from bone cancer in August 2016, but whose charity Willberry Wonder Pony has raised thousands for cancer research and granting horsey wishes to those with serious illnesses.

    About the Horse & Hound Awards 2022

    The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the seventh year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF. Some 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, gathered to enjoy a glamorous evening of champagne, winner reveals and dancing at Cheltenham Racecourse. As in previous years, the H&H Award winners were nominated and voted for by you, the readers. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2022 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.

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