Valegro, Nick Skelton’s superb Olympic gold and Teddy the Shetland are among those voted by you as the winners of the 2020 H&H Awards, in partnership with NAF.
Today (9 December) we announce the winners of our decade categories, following on from yesterday’s “of the year” titles.
Nick and Big Star’s individual Rio Olympic victory was, by a landslide, voted the Horserail moment of the decade.
“For me this is more than the moment of the decade, it’s the moment of a lifetime,” said Nick, whose tears on the podium revealed just how much the medal meant.
“It took many years and eight Olympic Games before I finally succeeded,” he reflected.
“I’d had many near-misses, such as in Athens and London, but when I woke up on the morning of the final in Rio, I had a good feeling that this was going to be the day, because I knew Big Star was getting better day by day.”
Nick and the Widdowsons’ great stallion were first to go in a nail-biting six-way jump-off to decide the medals.
“Going into that last round, I thought, ‘This is it, this is the last time I’m ever going to do this, because there’s not going to be another Olympic Games in me, or in Big Star,’” said Nick.
“I won it on the best horse I’ve ever had in my life. Whether the gold medal was due, or it came from above, I owe this award to Big Star.”
The incomparable Valegro, who won eight gold medals and broke every record going during his stellar career, not to mention continuing to delight his fans and raising money for charity since his retirement, was the worthy winner of the SEIB horse of the decade award.
“He’s never, ever, let us down, his country down or Charlotte down,” said Carl Hester, who co-owns Valegro with Roly Luard and Anne Barrott, and who was presented with the prize at home in Newent, Gloucestershire, by H&H dressage editor Polly Bryan.
“For him to be recognised like this is truly inspirational for all of us,” said Carl. “He is the perfect mixture of a horse who enjoys his work, and an athlete.”
Valegro’s rider Charlotte Dujardin was voted Uvex Helmets professional rider of the decade.
Her fairytale journey with Valegro brought her firmly into the spotlight, and she now has a string of rides set to continue her success, led by Mount St John Freestyle, with whom she won team and individual bronze at the World Equestrian Games in 2018.
“My biggest career highlight has to be London 2012 – it was my first Olympics, and to come away with double gold, I never dreamt that could happen,” said Charlotte as she collected her award from Polly.
“I find what I have achieved really surreal. I love what I do, competing and building partnerships with these horses.”
The Pikeur amateur rider of the decade award went to the inspirational 19-year-old para showjumper and disability campaigner Evie Toombes.
Evie said she was “elated” to win.
“I was shocked, it’s so kind of everyone who voted,” she added.
Evie was born with a form of spina bifida, which affects the nerves to her legs, bladder and bowel.
“I’m tube-fed directly into my bloodstream, I’ve had quite a lot of health issues,” she said, from a hospital bed in a room which even her parents are not currently allowed to visit.
“Find a way, not an excuse,” is her motto. “Riding gives me something to look forward to when I’m in hospital,” she said. “I’m not going through all this to sit on the sofa. Having a horse and being outdoors is fantastic for all our health and mental health.
“A kid with tubes is an easy target and I was bullied at school. But the riding school was fantastic, and I look back on those memories with fondness. Horses have always given me a safe place.”
• Hear more from Evie on tomorrow’s (Thursday 9 December) episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast.
The Brit came off best in a six-horse jump-off at the Olympics today in Rio
The British rider was well ahead of the competition today with a flawless test on Valegro, who was almost certainly
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Diminutive Instagram star Teddy the Shetland was named Balanced Horse Feeds pony of the decade.
The miniature Shetland would usually be gearing up for fundraising at Olympia at this time of year, visiting a children’s hospice or joining a Riding for the Disabled Association group’s carol-singing session.
Owners Alice and Molly Goring struggle to believe how much Teddy is loved throughout the world.
“We’ve tried our best to squeeze every inch of fun out of 2020,” Alice said. “Teddy lives for meeting people, and giving people hugs and making them smile.”
Charities Teddy supports include Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony, and Shooting Star Children’s Hospices.
Molly said: “In lockdown we did a 5km run with Teddy for the hospice. Usually he travels at a slow pace but he did so well.”
Alice added: “We can’t wait to get back out to events in 2021 and for Teddy to give people some special memories.”
H&H editor in chief Sarah Jenkins said that to have a record number of votes for the awards this year means so much to all the H&H team, but even more to all of those shortlisted.
“So thank you very much to all of Horse & Hound’s readers for the near 58,000 votes cast,” she said.
“You will see in these videos how overwhelmed this year and decade’s winners were by all of your support. We couldn’t have worthier winners.”
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