British rare breed’s eventing prowess celebrated with performance award

  • A hackney gelding with a love of cross-country is flying the flag for the rare British breed as he demonstrates just how versatile these horses can be.

    East Yorkshire-based Emily Gautier’s 16-year-old Skelton Romeo has been awarded the Hackney Horse Society’s 2022 performance award. The award, which relaunched this year, aims to recognise the achievements of hackneys taking part in different sports, as the society aims to raise awareness of the breed’s suitability for a variety of disciplines and as good all-rounders. Previous award winners include hackneys who have excelled in dressage and showjumping.

    Emily Gautiers bought 15.2hh Romeo four years ago as a general riding and hacking horse.

    “I didn’t purposefully look for a hackney as I had no experience of the breed, and I’d always thought they were mostly used for showing,” she said.

    “Romeo hadn’t done much when I got him home and to start with he couldn’t even walk over a pole, but he was very gentle and willing.”

    Emily said taking Romeo cross-country schooling for the first time last year really “brought him out” and allowed him to shine.

    “He loved cross-country from the start and he is really good at ditches and banks. It sounds cliche but he learned to trust me,” she said.

    “Two months after our first schooling session I took him to our first British Eventing competition at Norton Disney – and last season we didn’t have any cross-country jumping penalties.”

    This year Emily and Romeo have been competing at BE90 and under-18s classes, and they hope to step up to BE100 next year.

    “It’s funny as I always mention on the commentary sheets that he’s a hackney and the commentators always sound surprised and like they’re having to re-check his breeding when they read it out,” said Emily.

    In the 2022/23 Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s watchlist the hackney horse and pony features in the “priority” category and the trust issued a warning about the breed’s uncertain future, after only 31 registered foals were born this year.

    Emily said she is keen to help promote the breed and show how versatile they are.

    “I’m really proud that Romeo is a hackney, especially as I haven’t heard of many others eventing. He’s never lame or ill, and I’ve never had a horse like him. He absolutely loves his work,” she said.

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