‘This will take a while to sink in’: up-and-coming star takes first RIHS hunter supreme

  • Young show producer Will Morton banked a first Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) championship victory as he took The Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain hunter supreme title aboard Sarah-Ann Gunn’s winning lightweight Kilcarna Brilliant (Chubbs).

    The hunter championship held in the Longines International Arena was typically thrilling, as the usual format of all three ride judges, Sara Leatherbarrow (lightweights), Nick Gauntlett (middleweights) and Magnus Nicholson (heavyweights), taking each animal for a spin was adhered to. Each of the six animals presented for judging displayed impeccable manners throughout, including the four who were experiencing the atmosphere of the main ring for the first time.

    The results, co-decided by conformation judge Tim Martin, were called out in reverse order and selected as reserve was the second placed lightweight, Jill Day’s MHS Morning Master, piloted by Aimee Stunt in the championship as his usual rider Robert Walker chose to stay on winning middleweight Greenhall Treasure Island.

    Though even on the reserve announcement, Will didn’t dare dream that it could be Chubb’s turn to stand in the spotlight:

    “This will take a while to sink in,” said Will Morton, 26, who had finished second in the lightweight class last year with Chubbs after a top pull in the class. “I’m still young and up-and-coming, and while any championship win here is great, the hunter title is the one.”

    Will was experiencing déjà vu today, as just a month prior he’d steered Chubbs to take the hunter supreme at the Hickstead Derby Meeting.

    “The RIHS has always been a bit of an unlucky show for me,” Will added. “Last year, Chubbs was pulled top in his class but he was dropped into second. Today, the lightweights was a big class, as always, and there was a lot going on around us. Chubbs felt slightly tense when he stepped into the ring, but I gave him a pat and he took a breath. I was nervous when he was pulled in top; I thought last year might be about to repeat, but I think I’ve finally broken my RIHS curse.

    “In the championship he sat up and said to me ‘I’ve got this one’.”

    Will’s first claim to fame came in 2013 when he won the SEIB Search For A Star series aboard cob Woodfield Choice. Since then, he’s been carving out a name for himself on the circuit, though he only started producing show horse full time in 2021.

    Will first took Chubb’s reins in early 2022, the year they were supreme at South Suffolk, hunter champions at Lincolnshire and second at Horse of the Year Show. Prior to this, the eight-year-old gelding was a former hunter campaigner with Team Walker and Sarah-Ann bought him during lockdown.

    Will previously told H&H of the day he met Chubbs: “I was judging the amateur hunters at a local BSPS Area show and in walks this lovely bay. He was my winner from the get go, he rode well, and when he was stripped I thought I really, really liked the horse. He won, and a few days later I had a message on social media from Sarah, who asked if I was interested in taking him on. Our first show was South Suffolk, where he won his RIHS ticket and went champion, and on our next outing at Suffolk show he stood overall supreme.”

    Of the result, owner Sarah-Ann said: “Never in my dreams did I think I’d own a horse capable of this. I am delighted, though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get him back from Will now!”

    Lightweight ride judge Sara commented: “Our champion was obedient, light, balanced and he carried himself throughout; he was a pleasure to ride. Our reserve was also a lovely horse, a little tense in the morning but he went equally well in the championship and the decision was very close. The championship line-up was perfect; as judges we were each so proud of our winners.”

    The other championship representatives included the top two from the middleweights, Jill Day’s Greenhall Treasure Island and Robert Walker, and Lyssa Sheppard’s Alfie Connor and Matthew Ainsworth. First and second from the heavyweights, Rose Bailey’s Twinshock Warrior and Jayne Ross, and Alice Homer with Liz Prowting’s Bloomfield Distinction, completed the set.

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