‘He loves any opportunity to show off’: Reigning HOYS Arab champion secures RIHS title

  • The reigning Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) Ridden Purebred Arab of the Year Rafeekah (Meekah) is now a dual champion, after securing the purebred ridden Arabian honours at the 2021 Royal International Horse Show.

    Rider Kimberley Bates and her mother, Kerry, travelled down to Hickstead at 3.30am this morning, but the stunning grey gelding, who is by Designed out of Kaamelia, was alert, focused and full of presence on route to capturing the coveted crown in the Longines International Arena.

    “We came with a group of friends in convoy,” said Kimberley, who works for showing producer Katy Marriott-Payne and will be back in action on a smaller mount tomorrow in the Welsh section A and B ridden final.

    “Meekah gave the judge a fabulous ride in the morning and I was so proud of him. He’s super easy to have around. He woke up a bit in the main ring; I wasn’t expecting it. He’s an out and out showman and loves any opportunity to show off.”

    When she left the arena, Kimberley couldn’t quite believe that she was sat on a dual HOYS and RIHS champion:

    “He’s a pony of a lifetime,” she said. “He’s an absolute dude. The show season is so busy and we spend a lot of time on the road but it’s good fun and is super rewarding. We always have a nice day out together.”

    Second place was Kirsty Nelson riding Len Morgan’s 12-year-old CS Lelisha.

    “It was never the intention to buy an Arab,” said Kimberley. “In 2017, I’d just finished my years in mountain and moorland young rider classes and was on the hunt for something new. We went to view a part-bred Arab at Rafeekah’s former owner Nina Hutton-McKenzie’s yard and while it was a nice pony, Nina made the mistake of showing us around the rest of her set-up. Meekah was out in the field showing off and he looked amazing. We’d never owned an Arab before and we had no clue what we were doing, but he was just so gorgeous.

    “We got him home and backed him, and in his first season – 2018 – we did a few smaller shows to get him out and about. The following year, after a few runs as a novice, we chucked him in at the deep end and entered a HOYS qualifier. We were last. We went away, watched and learnt, and throughout the season he got better and better.

    “He’s the most lovable character and is so easy to do in every single way. He loves his jumping, too. He’s the ultimate all-rounder.”

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