You saw them here first — top showjumpers’ baby-faced appearances in Horse & Hound

  • From John Whitaker to Ben Maher, today’s leading riders didn’t get where they are without appearing on the pages of H&H along the way. So we decided to have a flick through the archives to remember when they were bobbing about on ponies or picked out as “Olympic hopefuls” by some of our shrewd reporters… and what we wrote about them way back when…

    1. Stephen and Robert Smith

    Both of Harvey Smith’s sons were making a name for themselves as the 1970s progressed and in 1977 a report from the Junior European Championships read: “At the same time as the British A team was winning the Prince Of Wales Cup at Hickstead, the British junior team won the European Championship at La Tour De Peilz in Switzerland. Team members were Jean Germany on Dark Vale, Harvey Smith’s sons Robert riding Royal Rufus and Stephen on Alabama, and Stephen Vallance on Moydrum. In the second round it was essential for Robert Smith and Royal Rufus to jump clear. This they achieved in excellent style. The team members each received a beautiful watch.”

    2. Annette Lewis

    Anyone who remembers the glorious, acrobatic antics of Annette Lewis and the grey Tutein, will spot her trademark style in this early image from Aldershot Horse Show in the late 1970s. Genevieve Murphy’s report read: “The Lewis sisters [Annette and Michelle] both added to their substantial store of prizes already won this season. Annette Lewis on Provencal dead-heated with Julie King on Norseman IV in the Junior Open, while Michelle Lewis finished 1.4sec behind on Ironside to take third place.” The writer also observed: “Most of those who go out of juniors at the end of the year are already set to ride horses next season and some of them will surely turn out to be our international riders of the future.”

    3. Clem McMahon

    In 1990, “A strong Irish contingent” took the overall trophy at the Scottish Home Pony International at Muirmill in Scotland, thanks in no small part to the country’s winning 13.2hh team, which fielded soon-to-be leading international rider Clem McMahon.

    4. Ben Maher

    Another to make his H&H debut on ponies is Ben Maher who, with Dusty Boy, won team gold medals at consecutive Pony European Jumping Championships in 1997 and 1998.

    5. Ellen Whitaker

    A 13-year-old Ellen Whitaker is spotted in H&H, having captured the final leg of the 1999 Young Show Jumper Award series — and earning her place at the Olympia final — at her first attempt. Reporter Suzanne Jones wrote: “Based at Michael [Whitaker]’s Nottinghamshire yard, Jasper’s Gold has only been ridden by Ellen when their shows coincide. “We picked him up last night especially for this class,” said Ellen’s mother Carol. “And we return him to Michael after Wembley.”

    6. Robert Power and Dan Skelton

    Dan Skelton

    Now leading lights of National Hunt racing, both jockey Robert and trainer Dan made their names as young showjumpers. In the same year as an 18-year Robert was pictured competing in the international show at Towerlands, a 14-year-old Daniel Skelton “looked every inch the professional” when winning the Blue Chip Junior Novice qualifier at Gracelands riding Bodyguard.

    Robert Power

    7. Michael Mac

    The late Michael Mac was pinpointed as “one of the most successful juniors to date this season” by H&H writer Henry Birtwhistle in 1977: “He was 15 earlier this year, so could, technically have another season on ponies, but he has grown so rapidly over the past 18 months this will not be possible. He started jumping two horses during the winter, but was especially anxious to have a season on his good grey The Cossack IV; the pony was out of action due to injury for much of the 1976 season. This year the partnership has amassed an impressive total of firsts at Walsgrave, Bicton, Mill Lodge, Trent Park, Arena North and others.”

    8. Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Shane Breen

    In “a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit” a glittering cast of riders stepped up to the podium for the European Pony Championships held at Pratoni Del Vivaro, Italy, in 1990. Joining British rider Scott Smith’s individual bronze, were Sweden’s Malin Baryard, who earned the gold medal, while Shane Breen of Ireland clinched silver.

    9. Nick Skelton

    The now double Olympic champion had already made a name for himself as a junior but in 1977, a year before earning his first senior cap abroad, Nick was making waves in amateur classes alongside the likes of Graham Fletcher, Tim Grubb and Tony Newbery. At the Lancashire international show at Arena North, H&H’s Henry Birtwhistle reported on an unusual prize: “The consistently successful Nick Skelton took the Victor Ludorum and with it the Berger prize of decorating to the value of £500, which I understand is likely to be used on Ted Edgar’s stables!”

    Continued below…

    10. John Whitaker

    And finally… never a truer word was written in October 1975 when one H&H writer observed a young John Whitaker in action: “Through this season when John has really made his mark in top competition, earning himself a place on the Olympic short-list, the hallmark of his riding has been his considerable composure and unusually well-developed sense of balance.”

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