‘That was amazing, but unexpected’: triumphant RIHS return for small hack

  • Two equine giants of the show horse world went head to head in the Saracen Horse Feeds BSHA supreme hack championship at the 2023 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS), but only one could come out on top.

    On this occasion, it was Nick Brookes’ small contender Parkgate Royal Visit William and Robert Walker who lifted the supreme, ahead of last year’s champions, Danielle Heath and Guy Mears’ winning large hack Forgeland Hyde Park, a former ride of Robert’s and last year’s reserve supreme champion.

    This was not the first time that the top horses — who are coincidentally both called “Will” — have battled it out for an overall championship, having contended against each other at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), Royal Windsor and the RIHS in previous years.

    “On this occasion the small just edged it for us on the day; he looked through his bridle, tipped along and he was a joy to judge,” said ride Nicola Taylor, with conformation judge Chris Hewlett adding: “He has smiled through his bridle all day long.”

    “That was unexpected, but amazing; he’s a little gem of a horse,” said Robert, of the now 13-year-old who was a winner of the intermediate championship here in 2017 with Emma Dewhurst. “This horse owes us absolutely nothing. I lose count of how many times he’s won here now!”

    Last year, Will missed Hickstead owing to injury, as Robert explained: “He had a muscle strain after staying away at a show during the middle of the season. We didn’t want to rush him, so we rested him and got him back right for HOYS at the end of the year.

    “I think it’s his movement that has given him so much longevity; he’s got so much rhythm and cadence, and he’s a born natural as far as having the ability to perform in a big ring. And he doesn’t ride like a small horse, he carries any judge, whether a smaller lady or a gentleman, with ease and he’s so comfy.”

    Robert, having previously had Forgeland Hyde Park in his yard, said that he knew how tough the championship showdown was going to be.

    “He’s such a difficult horse to beat so I tried to make use of my own ride’s assets and see what we could do.”

    Robert will now have a ride in Sunday’s horse supreme. In 2021, he rode Parkgate Royal Visit William to finish reserve supreme behind Allister Hood, who scored his ninth Winston Churchill supreme victory before retiring from the ring with the show cob Our Cashel Blue.

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