It’s been 12 months of incredible achievements across all equestrian disciplines. Here’s our pick of the people who made 2013 such an unforgettable year.
1. William Fox-Pitt
The only British event rider to win a medal at the Europeans, salvaging some pride after team hopes fell apart. William rounded off his season with first and third at Pau, the final northern hemisphere CCI4* of the year. The 44-year-old also finished second in both the British Eventing rider list and world rankings, having racked up wins at Blenheim, Bramham and the Festival of British Eventing, besides Pau.
2. Natasha Baker
Uxbridge-based Natasha, 23, came into the year on top form as double gold Paralympic champion. She bettered her 2011 European double gold-winning performance by taking triple gold at this year’s championships. Natasha is classified a grade II para dressage rider. At the age of 14 months, she contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation in the spine that affects nerve endings and left her with weakness and limited feeling in her legs. Natasha was awarded the MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours.
3. Phoebe Peters
This prodigious talent won double gold and team bronze at the pony dressage Europeans, scoring a world record of 84% in the kür. The 14-year-old also put herself into the record books as the first pony rider outside Germany or Holland for 15 years to take individual gold. Carl Hester has already tipped her for future Olympic glory, and she has a dream mentor in Charlotte Dujardin, with whom she corresponds.
4. Spencer Wilton
Spencer landed the prix st georges national championship with a record-breaking score of 77.11% on Goodmans Supernova, tipped as a future team prospect. Spencer, 40, also finished second on Doogie. Spencer has a dozen national titles and has already represented Britain, but his current string — which he has been building since returning from a three-year competition break in 2010 — looks to be his strongest yet. Could next year be his breakthrough to the world’s dressage elite?
5. Christopher Stone
Christopher, a businessman with a passion for eventing, owns the stallion Chilli Morning, whom William Fox-Pitt rode to win individual European bronze. He and his wife Lisa also own Chico Bella P. The mare has been a mainstay of Britain’s FEI Nations Cup triumph this year with Gemma Tattersall, who is based at the Stones’ Tattleton Stud. This combination led the British to Nations Cup victory at Houghton, finishing second individually. Christopher has evented a little himself, but has been discouraged since breaking two vertebrae in a fall in 2006.
6. Laura Collett
The 25-year-old eventer did not have the best of seasons by her own exceptional standards. However, in surviving a horrendous fall in July (see p66) and returning to winning form by the end of the season, she proved she has the resilience needed to make it to the very top. She suffered crush injuries to her lungs and liver in the rotational fall, fractures to her shoulder, ribs and spine, and spent six days in an induced coma. Six weeks later, she was back competing, landing an open intermediate on Noble Bestman. She then contributed to Britain’s Nations Cup success at Waregem and Boekelo on Allora 3. Laura has also been in the limelight as Kauto Star’s new rider, showcasing his career after racing as she reschools him for dressage and displays.
7. Charlotte Dujardin
The successes of 2012 should have been a hard act to follow. But the world number one managed to match her Olympic dressage achievement on Valegro with double individual gold at the European Championships. In doing so, Charlotte, 28, broke yet another world record — the grand prix — and now holds two of the three international grand prix world records. She was awarded the OBE in the 2013 New Year Honours List, has just been named FEI athlete of the year and won the Animal Health Trust’s dressage award in November. At the rate she’s going, there will be many more gongs to come.
8. Holly Woodhead
Holly, 19, had most of 2012 on the sidelines after breaking her leg in a skiing accident. But despite having not competed for a year, this former international pony dressage and event rider built up her form throughout the season and was selected for the young rider eventing Europeans. With the added pressure of one of the team having been eliminated, Holly spearheaded the Brits to take team silver on DHI Lupison. She finished sixth individually.
9. AP McCoy
What can you say about the most successful jump jockey of all time? AP recorded his 18th successive National Hunt jockeys championship in the 2012-13 season — a title he has won every year since turning professional. And while he has surpassed everything there is to be achieved in his sport, he continues to push boundaries. He even found time to pen a racing novel, Taking The Fall. On 7 November, he rode his 4,000th winner, a landmark that few believe will ever be bettered. Will this be it, or will the 39-year-old have yet other goal beckoning on the horizon?
10. Ryan Mania
The 23-year-old burst into prominence on his first ride in the Grand National this year, riding 66-1 outsider Auroras Encore to win by nine lengths. He was the first Scotsman to win the great race for 117 years. But racing is a game of great highs and lows. The next day, he was airlifted to hospital after a fall. He suffered fractured vertebrae, but was back racing a week later. Ryan took a sabbatical from the sport in 2011, citing frustration with lack of rides due to postponements, but his comeback has evidently been worth it.
11. Ben Maher
It’s been a landmark year for Ben. The 30-year-old is the first British showjumper in more than 20 years to be world number one. He followed up last year’s Olympic success with team gold and individual silver at this year’s European Championships. He was also on the British team that won the Dublin round of the Nations Cup, landed the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead and captured the London leg of the Global Champions Tour.
12. Scott Brash
What a year for the 28-year-old. He was crowned world number one in December after franking the form of last year’s Olympics with team gold and individual bronze at the Europeans. He landed a €100,000 (£83,000) bonus for jumping double clear at the FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona, prompting chef d’equipe Rob Hoekstra to say that he had not “seen anyone as good as [Scott] at that age”. He scored a historic double when winning the grand prix and World Cup qualifier on consecutive days in Oslo on Hello Sanctos in October, before becoming the youngest rider ever to win the Global Champions Tour with its £250,000 first prize.
13. Robert Power
The 2007 Grand National-winning jockey proved his all-round brilliance when landing the Hickstead Speed Derby. Although Robert has no plans to divert from his main career in National Hunt racing, he showjumps during the summer. And he’s well bred. His father is former international showjumper Con Power, his sister is four-star event rider Elizabeth Power and their mother competed at Badminton. Robert won a silver medal himself at the young rider showjumping European Championships before he switched to racing.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (5 December 2013)