‘He’s had me off in the ring’: meet the ‘quirky’ HOYS-bound Exmoor with a sense of humour

  • After a five-year long journey, Exmoor pony Dunkery Hornbill is making his NEC debut after qualifying for the 2022 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    Dunkery Hornbill, who is known as Bill at home, qualified for the ridden Exmoor and Shetland of the Year final with his rider Stephanie Richards, who has him on long term loan from Suzy Port.

    Stephanie saw Bill advertised on social media five years ago.

    “I was looking for a novice and he wasn’t too far away from me,” says Stephanie, who runs a livery yard. “He’s always had a massive character and has been tricky to ride. When he was younger he would always escape from the field, too, and he generally finds everything hilarious. But I’ve always known he was worth persevering with.”

    On their show ring debut, Bill — whose full brother is the prolific stallion Dunkery Wigeon — and Stephanie parted company, and the gelding has been known for throwing in the odd unorthodox movement during his performances.

    “He’s had me off in the ring a couple of times,” confirms Stephanie. “In his very first ridden class, he finished his show and after coming to a halt he stood bolt upright on his hind legs and I rolled over his back. I fell off right in front of the judge and Bill just stood there staring at me!

    “After checking if I was OK, the judge asked about him and his experience. While sitting on the floor I explained that he was in fact very young, but that as his brother had just taken best of breed at Olympia, I had high hopes for him.

    “I remember the judge looking at me and probably thinking I was completely mad for thinking this small brown hooligan could be tamed. She said, ‘yes dear, I’m afraid it doesn’t always work like that’.”

    Now 11, Bill has firmly cemented his name in the show ring. He qualified for HOYS 2022 on his first attempt of the year at Stoneleigh Horse Show in May, appeared at the Royal International in July and was reserve supreme champion at the Exmoor pony breed show.

    “As he’s got older he’s improved so much,” says Stephanie, who has recently started jumping Bill in working hunter pony classes. “At Stoneleigh, Bill was back to his old tricks and exploded in the warm-up, but he kept it together in the class and he went beautifully, though the win was still very unexpected.

    “I have family meeting me at HOYS and my sister will be grooming for me.

    “It’s been a bumpy ride in more ways than one, but I’m so proud he’ll be representing the breed at HOYS.”

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