‘He’s part of the family’: legendary worker storms to championship victory at the RIHS

  • Seasoned gelding Beech Hall Ryan topped The LG Show Team working hunter pony supreme championship for the second time in his career at the 2023 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

    Claire Collier’s legendary pony Beech Hall Ryan and 15-year-old Izzy Hartswood-Collier made light of the Kevin Millman-designed course to win the 143cm class, before a storming gallop sealed them the championship title in front of judges Brigit Ensten (jump) and Richard Hollinshead (conformation).

    “Our champion and reserve were both proper working hunter ponies in stamp with good bone and limb,” said Richard.

    Brigit said the “brilliant” course wasn’t overly big but that it provided plenty of challenges for the young jockeys: “It was tricky enough, and it made each person think about their riding. The route meant jockeys had to change the rein a few times which was good as it made them have to sit up and wait before each fence.

    “Many of the children won’t have seen a camber before, either, so those who were riding here for the first time will come away having learnt something and they’ll return next year as better riders.”

    Richard noted that one particular element was catching competitors out: “There was a turn to the third fence which really asked a question. If the rider didn’t sit their pony up and ride accurately they would take it out.”

    Ryan, a 16-year-old by Rathcoona Holiday Boy out of Cashel Misty, last won the RIHS working hunter pony title in 2016 with Zara Weir. This year, Ryan’s last pilot Alice Cowie was also present in the championship as she jumped to the 153cm class with her mare TGF Lucy.

    “We’re floating on cloud nine,” said Claire, who was show hunter pony supreme at Hickstead some 22 years ago, but noted that this was the first time the family have reigned in worker ranks here. “Izzy totally rose to the occasion, and Ryan also gave it his all.”

    Ahead of the RIHS, Ryan and Izzy have maintained impressive form, jumping clear in every qualifier they’ve featured in, and also being selected for the England Team.

    “She has found the key to him this year,” explained Claire, who bought Ryan post-Covid in September 2020, when Izzy was only 12 years old. “Last year, we had a mare who we ran alongside Ryan and she seemed to distract him a bit. He can exhibit mild stallion tendencies sometimes, and he didn’t have his head in the game fully. This season, we’ve decided to solely focus on him, and it’s paying off.”

    At home, Izzy regularly rides her home-produced pony through the fields, and she hacks him out for hours at a time. The pair are solely trained by Claire’s older sister, Emmie Leedham.

    “He’s the lovieset, kindest horse to have around,” Claire confirmed. “He’s one of the family.

    “This is everything you work towards, but can never be arrogant enough to believe will happen. You just show up and do the best you can do. We can’t believe it.”

    Laura Wheelwright’s second placed 143cm contender, Star Smokey, and RIHS working hunter pony debutante Florrie Duncalf finished reserve.

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