We all know the best things come in small packages – let’s hear it for brilliant ponies in sport and beyond.
The winner of the Stallion AI Services Pony of the Year 2021 is the late Redwings Phoenix.
The piebald foal suffered extensive burns in an apparent arson attack in August when he was just five weeks old. Sadly, last week, following months of intensive care, Redwings announced that after a skin graft operation, Phoenix did not recover from the general anaesthetic. As we had already chosen Phoenix as a contender for this award, we have left him on the shortlist to honour his memory and to highlight his plight and the work done by rescue centres.
Phoenix was initially treated at Lingfield Equine Vets, before going to Redwings Horse Hospital in Norfolk, supported by his foster mum Mildred.
“Despite everything he’d been through, Phoenix was a bright and affectionate pony who adored cuddles,” says Redwings’ Stephanie Callen. “Although almost entirely covered in bandages, Phoenix loved to stretch his legs outside and even enjoy a little trot. He was a brave pony, who blew us away with his fighting spirit.”
This year’s other nominees were:
Midnight Dancer II
“CASPER”, as the Connemara is known at home, arrived at Charlotte Cooke’s on Christmas Day
“He was a surprise,” says Charlotte, 15, who found him standing in the stable on Christmas morning.
“I had tried him in August last year and fell in love, but realised he was never going to be mine.”
The 10-year-old had already won two European pony team golds and the individual title with the Healy family, but Charlotte said her aim was just to do 100s this season.
“Casper had other plans!” says Charlotte. “He has given me my first novice and international wins. The highlight was winning a CCI*-intro section at Blair Castle. I was inexperienced and had no expectations, but he led from start to finish and loved the crowds – he sees everyone and lights up.”
This wonder pony is an equally fun character.
“He makes everyone giggle, bobbing his head for treats, and he will show everybody his smile if nobody pays attention,” adds Charlotte.
Rowfantina Hocus Pocus
THE 22-year-old star scurry pony, known as Eeyore, has had a year of highs and lows. While being treated for suspected infected melanomas in his sheath, vets discovered he was suffering from aggressive skin cancer.
“The only options were to attempt a lengthy operation which carried high risks aged 22, or say our goodbyes,” says owner Jemma Millman. “On 28 April he had an en bloc phallectomy, which means he now urinates from under his tail. He was cleared fit for ‘fast work’ on 24 June and qualified for HOYS [Horse of the Year Show] two days later!”
He and his scurry partner, his full-sister Piglet, won both their large scurry classes at HOYS.
“Just to nurse him back to fitness was a major achievement,” says Jemma. “He’s a much-loved pet. He used to rock my daughter’s pushchair outside his stable with his teeth if she cried, and took her to her first showing classes aged two-and-a-half. Alongside this, he has won four HOYS championships, multiple Royal International and other major championships.”
SARRA MACKENZIE-PILOT’S 13-year-old Welsh section A was “a lawnmower” until this year, when his brother Lightning died after a walker fed him a raw potato in his field. He’d had a bad start in life. Born with severe dummy foal syndrome, vets gave him 5% chance of surviving the night. After several transfusions, he pulled through to become a companion to Lightning.
But when his brother died, he was called into action.
“Losing Lightning hit us both so hard we didn’t know what to do, so I got on him with a headcollar and rope. It turns out he needed a job as much as I needed to keep busy,” says Sarra.
Within three weeks he was popping over poles, within five he’d won his first dressage class, and he has continued in that winning vein for Oldham and District Riding Club.
“We gave him the chance to live, and when I was at rock bottom, he made my life so much better,” says Sarra. “He gave me hope.”
Previous winners of this award include:
- Smurf, 30, an amazing eyeless therapy pony who taught children about disabilities and offered comfort to those with dementia. Sadly Smurf is no longer with us, but he has left behind an incredible legacy, won the inaurgural award in 2019
- Miniature Shetland superstar fundraiser Teddy topped the charts last year as your leading Pony of the Decade (2011-2020)
About the Horse & Hound Awards 2021
We’re back! The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the sixth year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF.
Last year’s successful online H&H Awards achieved record participation, with nearly 58,000 votes cast. We were thrilled to be back in person for 2021, with a glittering ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse. Around 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, gathered to enjoy a glamorous evening of champagne and dancing as the winners were revealed.
As previously, the H&H Award winners have been nominated and voted for by you. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2021 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.