First RIHS supreme victory for 26-year-old rider and lightweight star

  • Will Morton cemented his status as the next best thing in showing as he partnered Sarah-Ann Gunn’s exceptional lightweight hunter Kilcarna Brilliant (Chubbs) to win his first-ever Barberstown Castle supreme ridden horse championship on a score of 29/30 at the 2023 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

    Last to go in the supreme, 26-year-old Will had watched six champions perform before it was his turn to ride. Just minutes earlier, working hunter representatives, Craig Kiddier and Sue Tennant’s Mulberry Lane, had produced an equally impressive performance to score 28/30, pushing them into the lead. But, there were still two precious marks left to play for.

    Will began by showing off the Brilliant Lad eight-year-old’s balanced and rhythmic paces. Chubbs looked through his bridle throughout with his ears pricked, waiting for his rider’s aids. Will then asked his trusty partner to lower and go down the grandstand, before he smoothly turned and came back up again. He was not finished, though, as he kept Chubbs moving on at pace around the arena, much to the delight of the crowd. On Will’s command, Chubbs came back down the gears to conclude the performance with a swinging trot, a walk and a perfectly square halt. Will then removed his hat and praised his friend.

    Judges Pearl Underwood, Alison Ledingham and Tony Whipps scored the pair a nine and two 10s, putting them on a winning total of 29/30.

    Impressively, this was Will’s debut in the supreme championship here at the RIHS.

    “I don’t think this moment will ever be topped,” said Will. “I put a lot of pressure on myself so it was a relief when it paid off.

    “Chubbs is a fantastic little horse. He is a showman through and through. This year he’s come out a better horse; he knows the job and he’s so confident in the ring. Plus, his temperament is second to none, which makes everything so much easier.”

    The victory comes a decade after Will Morton won and went reserve champion in the SEIB Search For A Star series at Horse of the Year Show riding his home-produced show cob Woodfield Choice.

    Will has been partnered with Chubbs since April 2022, and the pair were also supreme hunter champions in the same arena at the Hickstead Derby in June.

    Fellow supreme debutant Craig Kiddier finished reserve with Sue Tennant’s Mulberry Lane. In similar fashion, Craig began his show by displaying the horse’s ground-covering paces and manners. He made everyone wait for his gallop, too, and when he did accelerate, a friend at the ringside blew a hunting horn. As he halted, Craig cracked his hunting whip above the rock-solid horse’s head.

    Three combinations finished on 24/30. This was Simon Reynolds riding Rowena Stevenson’s cob champion Coppenhagen, Janay Atherden on Lisha Leeman’s coloured champion Red Rock III, and Robert Walker on Nick Brookes’ hack champion Parkgate Royal Visit William.

    Darren Crowe and Georgina Rees’ Arab champion Bellflower, and Danielle Heath riding Guy Mears’ riding horse victor Times Square III, both finished with a score of 23/30.

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