The Horse & Hound Podcast Inspiration 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

  • Which equestrian has most inspired you this year with their determination, spirited achievement or fight against the odds?

    Dylan Ward is the winner of the The Horse & Hound Podcast Inspiration of the Year 2023.

    Eight-year-old Dylan was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer with less than 50% chance of survival, in June 2022. Since then he has received 14 courses of high-strength chemotherapy, six weeks of proton beam therapy, two weeks of radiotherapy and he is currently taking oral chemotherapy.

    Dylan has gained lifelong disabilities from the damage the cancer has caused, but he has not let it get in the way of pursuing his dream of being a “champion dressage rider”. He took home three wins at the RDA National Championships this year and since joining British Dressage has qualified for the Quest regional finals and the Associated Championships and already has all three scores needed to qualify for the Winter Area Festivals at prelim bronze level.

    “Dylan is a positive person and has never been down in the dumps despite everything,” says his mum Jessica Flack. “He’s always looked forward to riding. Even if he’s only been discharged from hospital that morning, Dylan will always want to be on the yard by the afternoon.”

    The other individuals who were shortlisted for the The Horse & Hound Podcast Inspiration of the Year 2023 are:

    Tammy Marx

    Tammy founded Munchkins Miniature Shetland Rescue in Devon in 2014 to rescue miniature Shetland ponies from abuse, abandonment and neglect. Since then, Tammy and her team have rehomed around 55 Shetland ponies and currently have 45 in their care.

    “I would not be where I am today without my amazing team,” says Tammy, who cites the rehabilitation of Poppet as her most recent proud moment. “When Poppet came to us earlier on this year, she was skeletal and she wasn’t expected to make it. She weighed just 93kg shortly after she arrived. But following amazing care, a specialist refeeding programme and thanks to her saintly temperament, Poppet now weighs 145kg and she is so happy.”

    Josh Hill

    Josh has competed successfully in dressage, collecting under-25 and regional titles along the way, but in more recent years, he has started a podcast called Rein It In and founded the men’s-only riding clothing company, Half Step Performance.

    “Being a young guy as a dressage rider, I found my own struggles with a lack of clothing and general support for male riders at the lower levels,” he says. “Through my clothing brand, I came across a lot of young lads who rode but who were being bullied for the stigma and stereotypes of lads riding horses.

    “So along with my business partner Ashley Howells, I decided to create a podcast originally to get guys on to talk about their experiences of growing up riding horses and any mental health issues that came with that. The podcast has grown and we now provide a platform to give top riders the opportunity to speak about things close to their hearts, which in turn makes them human and relatable to the audience.”

    Emily Ham

    Emily is a successful para driver who has represented Great Britain at a number of championships. She took five years out of competitive driving due to her increasing pain, health and disability, but one year ago she was offered a session with British driver Robert Buck and he reignited Emily’s confidence and passion for the sport and she recently competed in the World Para Driving Championships.

    “This year has been absolutely amazing,” says Emily. “Horses have always been the centre of my life and just being around them makes me so happy – they have been the best medicine. While I can no longer drive using traditional rein handling for showing, over the past year I’ve been supported to adapt to my disability and now use looped reins, a whip loop and a lap strap to help me.”

    Emily has worked tirelessly as a volunteer with the RDA and young driver organisations. For 10 years she has been the BDS commissioner for young drivers and during Covid she set up initiatives such as an online monthly newsletter to support young drivers.

    Previous Inspiration of the Year Award winners

    Previous winners of this award include:

    • 2022: Nicola Wilson, the European champion event rider suffered life-changing injuries in a fall at Badminton Horse Trials in May 2022. Nicola spent more than four months in hospital undergoing intensive rehab and physio work as she relearnt basic life skills, before returning home where she has since been offering mentorship and coaching to other talented riders
    • 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 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 recognised 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.

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