The well-attended Equifest boasted typically atmospheric evening performances at East of England Showground, as amateurs dominated and a show pony stood supreme
A FOOT-PERFECT show pony lead-rein contender stole the hearts of the crowds and the judges to clinch her first Equifest supreme accolade.
The hugely popular show saw mammoth entries across the horse and pony sections, with double figures witnessed in most classes.
Reigning supreme of them all was Tash and Philip Cooper’s beautiful six-year-old lead-rein pony, Barkway Blackberry, ridden by their daughter, Emily, also six. Judge John Harvey, no stranger to his own success with mini ponies, gave them the nod in the supreme.
Producers Team Hillyard have had Blackberry, Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) bound in October, on their yard since she was a three-year-old. In her first season under saddle, the Barkway Bubbling Fun daughter stood second at the Royal International.
Usually, Philip takes the lead on the pair, but as he was busy with work commitments, Emily’s cousin Katie White took the rein.
“She’s a sweet little character,” said Lindsey Hillyard, who has watched Emily and Blackberry enjoy wins at both the Scottish Horse Show and British Show Pony Society Area 16 this term. “It was very electric in that main ring, but she went in without ear plugs and was a good girl.”
Tash added: “It was Emily’s first time in an evening performance so she was excited.”
One of the future
THE SK Wilson Groundworks supreme ridden novice accolade went to the dual novice hack and open intermediate champion, Ladies Man (George), ridden by Poppy Carter. This fresh-faced combination also returned on Saturday to take reserve in the overall supreme championship. The five-year-old by Tiger Attack was bred by Danni Radford, who still produces him.
“Poppy had the ride on a horse I was producing in 2019 and we had a really great relationship,” said Danni. “So I asked her if she’d like the ride on George for the season. Up until now, he’s been on the back-burner due to being busy with clients’ horses, but we’re getting really excited about him. He’s definitely one for the future.”
Not to be outshone by his stablemate, Emma Vince’s upstanding coloured Rhyfel Saxon Prince dominated in the Black Country Saddles hunter championship after winning the smalls, with Danni on board.
The popular combination of Katy Marks and her own Welsh section D stallion Thorneyside The Guardsman (Douglas) achieved three championships over the course of the show, coming home with home-produced, amateur and open mountain and moorland (M&M) titles. They also headed the Snow Family home-produced ridden supreme.
The charismatic Thorneyside The Saracen chestnut, nine, was maintaining form, as he also picked up his first HOYS place at Stoneleigh the week before.
“He’s the kindest horse and he loves to be the centre of attention,” said Katy, who bought Douglas as an unbroken four-year-old. “When he’s on top form, I can only compare him to a Ferrari. His trot is to die for; I call him my ginger Valegro.”
Home-producer Katy hails from a non-horsey family and usually trots off to shows on her own with Douglas in tow.
“It’s a credit to his brilliant personality,” confirmed Katy.
Another home-produced combination took top billing in the SK Wilson Groundworks supreme ridden amateur championship. This was Felicity Vaughan aboard her stunning eight-year-old grey hunter Kingsman (Marley). The Irish Sport Horse is usually found in the working hunter arena, but here he reigned on the flat on only his third attempt.
“We’ve qualified for HOYS in the SEIB Search For A Star hunters, so I thought we’d better start doing some flat classes,” said Felicity, who enjoyed placings over sticks at Equifest, too. Felicity has owned Marley for three years.
“I absolutely love this show,” she added. “It’s so fun and Marley loved the atmosphere of the evening performance.”
After a stellar run at the National Pony Society summer championships, which included a reserve spot in the Price Family in-hand supreme crowning, the Pipers’ palomino Welsh section B colt Cadlanvalley Golden Voyager returned to the spotlight to lift the Intack Stud supreme in-hand title with Chris Piper.
The two-year-old is completely home-produced by the family, who run an online equestrian tack shop and also breed Chihuahuas.
LINDSEY HEWITT and Sophie Clohessy’s elegant bay part-bred Arab mare Menedh Mary Rose – who had shone in novice ridden ranks earlier in the day – captured the non-native in-hand supreme with stand-in handler Joe Shaw.
By Royalview Splendour out of Pendley Blue Charm, the eight-year-old has been with the Lancashire-based pair for a year. The win was made even more poignant, as Mary’s breeder, Duncan Mackenzie-Tolhurst, passed away in December after contracting Covid.
“It’s gutting he’s not here to see her,” confirmed Lindsey, who said that her fiancée Sophie, who produces the in-handers, was “face palming” that she was busy in another ring while Mary’s class was running. Luckily, Joe was on hand and had packed his running shoes.
“Mary’s only done a couple of shows under saddle, so hopefully she’ll do a few qualifiers next year,” Lindsey added. “And of course, we hope to have some nice foals from her in the future. We have her full-brother at home, too.”
“We really needed this”
AFTER a traumatic few weeks at home, Jo Rose was delighted that Orla Smyth-Kinane’s seven-year-old Connemara stallion Gentle Knight clinched the Spillers supreme M&M title at what was his first championship show, lifting spirits in the process.
“Flurry”, by Glencarrig Knight out of Gentle Kate, was flawless throughout, displaying exemplary manners and all the breed characteristics of a future ridden champion, despite just coming to Equifest for “the trip out”.
“He came to me as a freshly backed four-year-old to be brought on and produced, but we’ve given him lots of time to mature; prior to Equifest, he’d only done three small shows,” explained Jo, who home-produces her ponies alongside her parents, Danny and Janis Rose.
Three weeks ago, Jo’s other stallion was bit by a motorbike while out hacking.
“The bike just came at us,” said Jo. “Thankfully, the pony has pulled through, but it was touch and go for a while as he ruptured three arteries and was in intensive care.
“We really needed this,” she added. “Flurry was just coming for the experience, but it’s been a well-needed boost. He’ll hopefully breed in the future, too.”
- This report will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 26 August
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