‘She’s been my little rock’: Shetland mare who helped her owner through hard times shines at major show

  • A Shetland pony mare gave her owner a dream first win at the 2022 Royal Highland Show when she headed her 26-strong in-hand breed class.

    Lorraine Bentham’s Melland Queen Of Scots (Diva) was then crowned best female, securing the coveted Dryknowl Trophy.

    Lorraine, who works as a referrals coordinator at Oakham Vets, bought Diva as a yearling from her breeder and she says the now five-year-old has “been her rock through some of the hardest times in her life.”

    “My sister, Michelle, had a gelding from Diva’s breeders and I had got the Shetland pony bug through showing him,” explained Lorraine. “As soon as the stud had a filly for sale I jumped at the chance.”

    Diva was lightly shown as a two-year-old before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. During the pandemic in December 2020, Lorraine sadly lost both her parents to Covid.

    “It was a traumatic time for both me and my sister,” said Lorraine. “But Diva was my one constant and kept me in routine. Even when things are terrible you have to go and care for your horses, and Diva was my little rock the whole time.

    “If I’m feeling fed up I’ll go to the yard and Diva will bring me so much joy. She goes galloping up the field like a mini Black Beauty, and no matter how bad times get she’s always there for me. If she never won anything I’d love her exactly the same.”

    The Royal Highland Show is heralded as one of the ‘ultimate’ fixtures for Shetland pony breeders, and Lorraine and Michelle had always hoped to compete their ponies there.

    “When we lost Mum and Dad we realised how short life was and thought we’d better not put these things off any longer,” continued Lorraine. “We treated the show like a summer holiday, and set off with Diva, and Michelle’s pony, Melland Jackson Jive (Jackson).”

    Jackson started the run by picking up a fourth in his class, before it was Diva’s turn to take to the ring.

    “I knew she was a nice filly, but I never dreamed she would win,” says Michelle. “I’d never seen so many Shetlands in one ring and the class took forever. After the initial inspections, the judge went up and down the line, before pulling 10 forward. He then pulled four forward from this initial line before asking us to walk round. When he called Diva into first I couldn’t believe it, just due to the sheer numbers in the class. I had a tear in my eye. Diva stood above many top breeders, and everyone was so congratulatory. She then took best female, piping many of the younger females to the title. Her show name Melland Queen Of Scots was very appropriate, as she is now officially ‘The Queen of Scots’! Her breeders were also there to watch her win, which was very special. Both ponies then took part in the Grand Parade on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, another dream come true.”

    “Diva is such a little character, and she makes myself and many others smile on a daily basis. During lockdown she was many people’s therapy pony and fellow liveries on the yard would regularly be in her stable for cuddles.”

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