“He’s my best friend in the world,” said the winner of the Blue Chip pony newcomers final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), after the pair’s faultless jump-off round.
Thomas Bradburne, 14, and Connemara gelding Derryinver Rocky gave a masterclass in speed riding in the Andrews Bowen international arena, with a smooth, flowing, polished round that was also deceptively fast.
They were last to go in a jump-off in which the lead had already changed hands more than once, and when it became clear they were closing in on Olivia Spooner and Conella’s time, the crowd roared them home just over half a second ahead.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Thomas. “He’s an awesome pony, and he did so much for me. We just said I’d go out there, keep moving, do the turns but keep it flowing, and what will be, will be. If it came off, it came off and if it didn’t, it didn’t — and it did.”
Thomas said he tried to see past the fact it was such a prestigious final, in such a top venue.
“I tried to think of it as just a normal 1.15m, which we do regularly, and section out all the jazz and lights that go with it and keep calm, for the pony too,” he said. “He can get quite buzzy, so I had to keep him focused and calm.”
Thomas described “Winston”, also known as Winnie, as “the best person”.
“He’s my best friend in the world,” he said. “He’s so kind, and will make friends with everyone, if they want to be friends with him. He tries so hard and is so genuine.
“I had a good feeling today as Winnie was going really well in the warm-up, and he was pretty up for it. Just look at it here; it’s so massive and amazing; you’d never hear that noise when you cross the finish line anywhere else.
“I could hear people shouting as I came to the last fence and we came to it on the perfect stride. I thought ‘Come on Winnie, don’t have it down now’, and he didn’t. It was pretty amazing.”
Thomas, whose parents Gee Armytage and Mark Bradburne are former jockeys, and whose uncle is racing legend Marcus Armytage, has had the chance to pursue both disciplines.
“Because of Covid, I hadn’t raced much, then showjumping took over because it started earlier!” he said.
The HOYS pony newcomers champions are also due to contest the Robinson Equestrian pony Foxhunter final on Friday.
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