‘A once in a lifetime opportunity’: groom beats her boss in hunter showdown at Windsor

  • With two exquisite winning horses through to the LeMieux Royal Windsor hunter championship, show horse extraordinaire Robert Walker had a difficult decision to make. Which one would he ride through the gates of the Castle Arena in an attempt to win the title for the fifth time on the trot?

    In the end, he passed Jill Day’s top lightweight MHS Morning Master’s reins to his long-term groom, 23-year-old Aimee Stunt, while he chose to pilot Jill’s Greenhall Treasure Island, the horse who had clinched top honours in the middleweight class.

    But Robert, admittedly very competitive, was to be beaten by his student, as Aimee and “TJ” were called forward to lift the crown.

    TJ, an eight-year-old by Quidam, is no stranger to the victory lap. As a three-year-old, he won the supreme in-hand final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and has since been carefully produced by Robert and his team to be one of the circuit’s most consistent novice contenders.

    “He won at Windsor as a four-year-old and he’s always taken so many titles throughout the season, but the big shows have never been our aim with him; this is his time now and I hope this will be his year,” said Robert, who retired his legendary lightweight View Point from the show ring after he was supreme at HOYS in 2022.

    TJ has enjoyed two outings prior to Windsor this season, picking up early HOYS and Royal International (RIHS) tickets.

    Aimee, who has been based with Robert for four seasons, was riding in the Castle Arena for the first time during her career.

    “TJ is such a kind horse,” said Aimee, who last won at Windsor riding a 153cm show hunter pony. “Riding him in the championship was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

    Greenhall Treasure Island (Larry), an Island Commander seven-year-old, has also stood champion on both of his previous outings this season, at UK Ponies and Horses spring classic and BSPS Area 1A respectively.

    “My wife, Sarah, told me which one to ride in the championship,” laughed Robert. “But the little horse [TJ] has gone exceptionally well all day; he deserved it. Larry had a little spook in the championship, too, but that’s just horses for you sometimes.

    “Aimee is a really great rider; she has a natural feel and she’s so keen to learn”

    “I was slightly nervous ahead of Windsor this year; the pressure was on to win this one again,” added Robert, who won the Royal Windsor hunter championship four years running with View Point.

    Second placed middleweight, Liz Prowting’s Bloomfield Eloquence, ridden by Loraine Homer, stepped up his game and was called forward to take section reserve.

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