‘He’s the first heavy horse I’ve ridden’: Shire owns the ring and wins at HOYS

  • Exactly 10 years since he won the SEIB Search For A Star series, Will Morton returned to the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) to take the top spot in The Barber Family British ridden heavy horse of the year championship. Will, who began the week aboard hunters, cemented his versatility when partnering Gemma McClorey’s eight-year-old Shire gelding Cotebrook Sgurr Alasdair (Big Al) to head the hugely competitive final.

    Big Al was bred Alistair King, by Moorfield Edward.

    The standards continue to rise each year as the competition, first introduced in 2016, gathers support and prestige, and both judges — Katie Duxbury (ride) and heavy horse specialist David Curtis — were impressed.

    “You have to adapt your riding in ways that sometimes people don’t realise,” said Katie. “These horses need more room, for a start, and you have to plan the transitions ahead carefully to give them time to organise themselves.”

    “Our winner was also a proper example of the breed,” added David. “There were a lot of real quality horses today, and most were very well presented.”

    Breed enthusiast Gemma has lessons with Will, who qualified him at the National Shire Horse show, and Gemma was champion with Big Al herself at Equifest. He went to Will for production prior to coming here.

    Although Will has had several stellar seasons, peaking with the overall horse supreme at Royal International Horse Show this July, amazingly this was the first class he had won here since emerging in the Search For A Star final exactly a decade ago.

    “I’m lucky with him as he’s an incredibly light, balanced ride,” said Will. “You wouldn’t know you’re on a heavy at all! His prep is mainly focused on fitness and stamina work, and is the first one I’ve ridden.

    “I’ve only ridden him once before in the ring — and that was back in the qualifier in March.”

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