Super showjumping, cheering crowds and wow-factor performances: the best moments from Liverpool 2018

The Theraplate UK Liverpool International Horse Show returned to end the year with a bang, featuring world-class showjumping and dressage, plus top live music, stunt bikes, speedy ponies and a huge helping of fun. After the heartbreak of last year’s car park fire, organiser Nina Barbour vowed the show would return in 2018 as “the best show yet”, and it did. H&H takes a look at what made this year’s event so special…

1. A top-class grand prix

Shane Breen and Golden Hawk were popular winners of the 1.60m feature class on New Year’s Eve with a masterful performance. This was the 13-year-old stallion’s first grand prix win, after finishing second numerous times. Shane’s victory also continued Ireland’s unbeaten streak in the class, with Billy Twomey taking the crown on the previous two occasions (2015 and 2016).

2. The puissance

Jumping a 7ft wall takes a serious dose of courage. Jumping a 7ft wall on a horse you have never ridden before takes that to another level. King of catch rides Matt Sampson proved he has nerves of steel, wowing the crowd with his ride aboard Laura Renwick’s Top Dollar VI — who Matt had sat on for the first time less than an hour before the class. He shared the top prize with Irish teenager Mikey Pender, joint winner of the 2018 Dublin puissance, after clearing 2.20m (7ft 2.6in).

3. Dressage legends in action

VIP (or rather, VIH) Valegro made a super special trip to Liverpool with Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester to see his fans ahead of the Equitop Myoplast invitational inter I freestyle, which was won by Charlotte on Florentina VI. In second was Katie Bailey aboard Boccelli 6, with multiple medal-winning para dressage star Sophie Wells third on her World Equestrian Games gold and silver medallist C Fatal Attraction.

4. Harriet Nuttall’s show to remember

The Somerset-based rider capped her epic 2018 with a show to remember — standing on the podium no fewer than five times. Harriet and Galway Bay Jed won Saturday’s Voltaire Design 1.50m class and she finished the day with a third place in the Conway Land Rover ride & drive aboard her 2016 Hickstead Speed Derby winner, Silver Lift (“Mickey”). She then donned her Superwoman outfit and teamed-up with “Bumblebee” Sula von Bulow, aged eight-and-a-half, to win the Archo Developments mini major. Not done there — she ended her year with the runner-up spot in the grand prix aboard “Jed” and third in the knock-out on Mickey. Congratulations!

5. He put a ring on it

New Year’s Eve was a time for a whole host of celebrations, none more so than the member of the audience who popped the question to his surprised girlfriend in front of a crowd of thousands. She said yes!

6. The commentators

From Matt Millin helping with the marriage proposal, to Geoff Billington’s outstanding frog impression (explaining how to clear the puissance wall, obviously), the whole team had the crowds laughing and cheering throughout.

7. Future stars

The future of British showjumping looked bright, with young riders and horses rising to the top. Olympic youth silver medallist Jack Whitaker, 17, claimed the under-25 grand prix title aboard Scenletha, with 15-year-old Oliver Fletcher taking second and third aboard KBIS Caicos and Hello Disckoboy DN respectively. Young rider European double gold medallist Harry Charles won the Hope Valley Saddlery 1.45m world ranking class aboard Doulita, with his team-mate Graham Babes in second on Boucheron. Harry and Doultia also picked up a podium spot in Saturday’s 1.45m. In the grand prix, third-placed William Funnell’s scopey eight-year-old Billy Diamo looked an exciting prospect for years to come.

8. Mini heroes

Stars of the future were also in action on their whizzy ponies. Ireland’s Seanan Reape and Mickybo followed-up their viral Dublin win with first place in the 128cm championship, sponsored by Pony of the Year Show. Meanwhile, mini major winner Sula melted hearts when she told the press she loved her pony Bellfield Benjamin “with all her heart”. Eve McCoy, daughter of 20-time champion jump jockey AP, had one of the stand-out moments of the show with her lightening round in the mini major.

9. Golden Groom award

Daniel Tarpey, groom to the Charles team, was the deserving recipient of the Theraplate Golden Grooms award, winning the use of a new Toyota Aygo plus a Theraplate for his yard for the next 12 months. The award was judged on horse’s turn-out, condition and overall wellbeing.

10. Happy New Year!

With jaw-dropping performances from Phoenix — Gilles Fortier’s equestrian spectacle — as well as the ever-popular Arenacross freestyle motocross team, music from Beau Dermott and Belle Voci, plus the Shetland pony Grand National alongside the world-class equestrian sport, there was no time to be bored. Rick Parfitt Jnr and the RPJ Band had the crowds singing, cheering across the show and rang-in the New Year with a bang.

Same time this year?

Don’t miss the full report from the Liverpool International Horse Show in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (out on 10 January)