An elite showjumper’s sheer talent to clear the highest fences is sublime – and our top showjumper for 2023 has been crowned
The winner of the Whickr Showjumping Horse of the Year 2023 is Flying Tinker II.
12yo gelding by Tinkers Tale out of Perpetual Motion
Rider: Mark Edwards
Owner: Marlene Edwards
Breeder: Martyn Edwards
Groom: Josie Dummett
Mark’s 15.3hh home-bred has racked up an astounding 23 wins this year, taking his career total hurtling towards the century mark. He’s amassed red ribbons in everything from grands prix to back-to-back speed horse of the year finals at the national championships. He’s clearly one of the most consistent horses on the national circuit – and one of the most feared opponents in a jump-off – but he is also a real character.
The award was collected on the night by Mark’s father and the horse’s breeder Martyn Edwards.
“He’s very sharp to ride – in his early years, I probably fell off him more than any other horse!” says Mark. “But he’s really nice in the stable and a pleasure to have about. His brain and his heart make him such a winner. He tries so hard for you, which produces that bit of extra scope, and he is very careful. He’s an out-and-out winner and probably the coolest horse on the circuit.”
The other horses who made the shortlist for the Whickr Showjumping Horse of the Year 2023 are:
13yo Oldenburg gelding by Chacco-Blue x Carthago Z
Rider: Harry Charles.
Owner: Stall Zet
Breeder: Gestüt Lewitz/Paul Schockemöhle
Groom: Georgia Ellwood
This pair jumped double clear at the Hickstead Nations Cup for the second consecutive year, helping Great Britain secure a historic victory and marking Harry’s first Nations Cup success. Chef d’équipe Di Lampard credits Harry for backing the British squad 100%, and Casquo Blue has contributed hugely to a year packed full of team achievements.
“He’s a good old boy and this year he’s improved again,” says Harry of his European Championships ride. “He’s one of the most consistent horses in the Nations Cup series – he’s done 10 rounds in the past two years and he’s been clear in eight of them. That’s a pretty phenomenal record. I love jumping for my country – that’s what I strive for. He wouldn’t be the nicest horse to ride on the flat – he just finds it a bit difficult! But when you get him in the ring and point him at the jumps, that’s the easiest bit. He’s got springs in him.”
Equine America Unick Du Francport
15yo Selle Français gelding by Zandor x
Helios De La Cour II
Rider: John Whitaker
Owner: Clare and John Whitaker
Breeder: Laurent Baillet
Groom: Kerry Finch
Once again, this much-loved duo have proved a force to be reckoned with this year. John really only has one top horse at the moment, but “Big Frank” performs so consistently and is one of the most-travelled showjumpers on the circuit, contesting venues from Doha to Calgary to London in the past 12 months. Their crowning moment came when securing the momentous clear that won Great Britain the Nations Cup at Hickstead: who could forget the standing ovation they received as they left the ring on that glorious day? Frank is a yard favourite, with groom Kerry describing him as “sensitive, but at the same time he knows what he wants”.
“I was lucky enough to find Unick, who has kept me going a bit longer,” says John. “He’s been so good for me – we just keep ticking along.”
10yo stallion by Argento x Skippy II
Rider: Robert Whitaker
Owner: Caroline Blatchford
Breeder: John Whitaker
Groom: Louisa Taylor
This striking stallion has long been talked about as a rising star, but in 2023 John Whitaker’s home-bred really came of age when landing the prestigious King George V Gold Cup on an emotion-packed day at Hickstead – the stallion’s first attempt at a five-star grand prix. He and Robert continued their great run of form when finishing on the podium in the Gijon grand prix and recently jumped clear for a victorious Great Britain in the Nations Cup Final. But, says Robert, the best is yet to come.
“We’ve put a lot of work into him,” says Robert, crediting Caroline and Stephen Blatchford for allowing him to keep the ride. “He’s been jumping well this year, including in the Nations Cup team at Falsterbo. The Nations Cup Final was a completely different level for him and he coped with it well. I think he’s got a great chance for next year.”
Previous Horse of the Year Award winners
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
- 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 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.