The awarding of special prizes to the most harmonious horse and rider combinations at Equifest is just the start, it is hoped, in a positive change for the equestrian industry.
Four awards were given out on Saturday, 5 August, to the most suitable combinations. These were those who were not only an ideal match in terms of horse or pony and rider size, but also those about whom “everything just looked right”.
Amanda Stoddart-West is livestock and entries coordinator for the Great Yorkshire Show (GYS), which has for years enforced a strict rider weight limit everywhere on the showground. She was approached about the idea by Equifest show director Betsy Branyan, who she had helped with a similar rule at the Royal Three Counties show this summer.
Amanda and experienced steward Frank Grunnill spent the day talking to and assessing combinations on the showground.
“We picked those combinations that really stood out,” Mrs Stoddart-West told H&H. “The animals were in healthy condition, the rider suitable size, the rider was empathetic – not necessarily perfect or out to win rosettes, but we were looking for harmonious relationships, where everything looked right. The horses were happy and the whole picture was right.”
Mrs Stoddart-West said they picked four combinations; not necessarily the showiest or flashiest animals, but “really nice combinations”, and empathetic riders who gelled with their horses.
The overall winners were Jessica Paige Davies on Blue. Jessica said she was “absolutely amazed she was selected, let alone won”.
Another combination to win the award was Katie Lewis and Dublin Lass.
Katie said: “I really love the idea of it and it got a good conversation going about it on social media, with people saying more shows need to do something similar.
“I’ve had my mare 17 years and in lockdown I put a stone on. I didn’t ride her until I lost it again because I thought at 22, she didn’t need me adding more weight to her load as she got older.”
Georgie Lewis-Roberts was “over the moon” to be selected for an award with Fulford Mickey, and Jessica Lye said winning one with Duchers was “better than a first place”.
“I was nervous and excited about going in the main arena, but it is something I have always dreamt of and to go in there to collect an award of such importance was a dream come true,” she said.
Mrs Stoddart-West said other shows have been in touch about hosting the awards.
“My plan is to find a sponsor and take it further next year,” she said. “Now is our opportunity; the whole movement seems to have stepped up. We’ve been on this [at the GYS] since 2016, but suddenly people are more interested and awareness is growing. The more we can push this, hopefully it will become the norm and we won’t see any more poor combinations. These were happy horses, which is what we want – we’ve started the ball rolling, let’s keep it going.”
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