Road to HOYS: Exmoor mare makes history as the first of her breed to qualify for lead rein final

  • A seven-year-old mare has made breed history by becoming the first Exmoor pony to qualify for the mountain and moorland lead rein final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    Madeline Haynes and Sandy Wooderson’s home-bred Badleybridge Ab Fab (Molly) picked up her ticket to the final at NPS Area 7, and while Exmoors have had a presence in open, junior and working hunter ranks at HOYS, this will be the first time a breed representative has qualified on the rein.

    Ridden by Jennifer Frost, also seven, Molly is produced by Christina Gillet and Kevin Cousins. Molly and Jennifer were led by Christina on route to their golden ticket, where the pair also stood mini champions.

    Molly is Sandy’s first home-bred Exmoor and is by the stud’s own stallion, former HOYS ridden finalist Elsinore Alan Partridge and is out of the late Bluebarn Primrose, who is a daughter of the prolific Blackthorn Sea Poacher.

    “She’s had the most wonderful year,” said Sandy. “She qualified for the Royal International at the BSPS winter championships and stood third at the final, being the highest placed non-Welsh exhibit.”

    Molly was also champion of the NPS qualifying classes at Midland Counties and was reserve champion in the M&M lead rein finals at the NPS summer championships.

    “This is really only her second year in the ring as last year, as we all know, was pretty much written off and so she only managed one show,” said Sandy, of Molly, who was a former H&H one to watch. “Molly is such a genuine child’s pony and it’s very positive for the Exmoor breed to have a representative in this category.”

    Molly was born on the birthday of Sandy’s late husband and was backed by Sandy’s good friend Sarah Knighton as a four-year-old.

    “I sadly lost my husband in the February to cancer, and that same year Primrose was due to foal,” Sandy explained. “She was late so Molly ended up being born in April, on the same date as my husband’s birthday, so she really is a special pony.

    “Sarah’s one-year-old son sat on her first when she was four, and so we knew from the start she was going to be perfect for the lead rein job. She went to Kevin and Christina as a five-year-old and she’s been brought on slowly; I find Exmoors are better if they’re given that little bit more time.

    “She’s such a true-to-type Exmoor with quality, too. She’s beautifully schooled and goes really well; Kevin and Christina have done a fabulous with her. We’re delighted she’s got there and we’re equally delighted for the breed.”

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