The votes have been counted and your first group of worthy winners announced.
Today (8 December) we announce the first six winners of the H&H Awards 2020, in partnership with NAF. As this year’s awards are virtual, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the announcements are spread over three days, with the decade winners revealed tomorrow (9 December) and our lifetime achievement award on Thursday.
Watch Horse & Hound Awards episode one
The Stallion AI young rider of the year title went to 13-year-old Tabitha Kyle, who has enjoyed another superb season.
“I never expected this honour; I’m so grateful to everyone who voted for me,” said Tabitha.
“This year has been hard for everyone but luckily for me, it’s given me more time with the horses. I’ve been able to practise more dressage and I’ve had lots of fun doing no stirrups!”
Tabitha cites a bonanza show in France in July when she won four grands prix in one day as a particular highlight, while winning the 138cm title at Hickstead on Playboy Van De Zoetewei “felt like riding in the Grand National”.
And as for the key to Tabitha’s success?
“I was lucky to start so young and have my parents helping me,” she said. “And I don’t get nervous – until I watch the replay. I know what job I have to do and it’s a lot of fun.”
Daniel Bennett was named NAF Five Star PROFEET farrier of the year.
Daniel, who has been in his trade for 26 years and perhaps is best known for shoeing H&H’s part-Clydesdale blogger Hovis, said: “It’s very humbling to have got so many votes and nominations, especially as I’m only out shoeing two days a week.”
Daniel, who teaches for the rest of the week, said being a farrier is a “lifestyle, not a job”.
“It’s hard work on your body and mentally,” he said.
“Every day is a learning day; my old boss used to say that. But to see a horse with a specific problem get better and to be part of that is really rewarding.”
Daniel has been shoeing Hovis for 12 years.
“He is very heavy and has probably done untold damage to my spine!” he said. “But he’s a great horse to shoe, and a great character. He’s raised so much money for Bransby Horses, and his supporters are an amazing bunch.
“I’d like to thank all of them, and everyone who’s voted for me, especially the farriers and students and everyone at Herefordshire and Ludlow College.”
Freelancer Amelia Jay Sanderson, who set up her business Prestige Equine in 2018 when she was 22, was named Absorbine groom of the year.
“This award means so much to me, knowing I have such support behind me,” she said.
“I’ve had a lifelong passion for the equestrian industry and turning out horses is something I’ve loved from a young age.”
Amelia, who worked at Talland, Nicola Wilson’s and a racing yard prior to going freelance, said she is passionate about grooming at any level, and remembers bursting into tears when a “local kid became champion at her first show”.
“I love the top level, but the best bits are seeing the transformation at the lower levels,” she said. “This year has been difficult, but it’s given me time to reflect and have new ideas for 2021 – and I’ve come out as H&H’s groom of the year!”
The Horse Dialog equestrian club of the year title went to the Essex Hunt North branch of the Pony Club.
District commissioner (DC) Diane Pegrum, who accepted the award, paid tribute to her assistant DCs Georgie Mackley and Oriel Gordon, secretary Sarah Nelmes and health and safety officer Sally Goodland.
“But what really makes the club great are the members and their families,” said Diane. “They’ve embraced all we’ve thrown at them this year, after the initial devastation of everything being cancelled due to Covid.”
Lockdown highlights included a Strava challenge that raised £2,000 for a local children’s hospice, and a virtual junior camp.
“The children did everything on hobby horses, including dressage and building ‘cross-country fences’ in their gardens. Lots fell in the paddling pool ‘water jump’,” she said.
“Pony Club is about friendship, fun and learning how to deal with success and disappointment. The lessons go far beyond learning how to ride. It’s the most amazing organisation.”
Esme Fordham, 81, was “surprised and honoured” to be crowned Dengie volunteer of the year.
“It’s wonderful; I send my love to everyone who voted for me,” said Esme, who has been a full-time volunteer at Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary for the past six years.
“When I retired at 74, having had cancer, I came up to bottle-feed one of the foals here and casually said to Sue Burton – the founder and owner of the sanctuary – ‘I’d love to work here but I’m a bit too old.’ I thought I’d just be making the tea but it went from there!”
Esme is involved in the sanctuary’s day-to-day running. Fundraising is a challenge, especially during Covid, but helping to turn rescued horses’ lives around makes it worth it.
“It’s hard work, fun and very rewarding,” she said.
Tim Randle, of Stables Equine Practice, won the Baileys Horse Feeds vet of the year award.
Tim, who has been a vet for 26 years and specialises in lameness and breeding work, said: “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a trophy to collect and this one has been well worth waiting for.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to me to win. I’m very grateful to whoever it was who nominated me and those who took the trouble to vote. Fingers crossed we get to celebrate in person next year.
“We’re lucky in this job, no two days are the same, and certainly when it comes to this year none of us have had one like it.
“As vets we’ve been lucky we’ve been able to carry on working in the great outdoors. It’s been a nice opportunity to catch up with more clients than ever because of less sport going on around the countryside. So it’s been a good year in some ways and this award really tops it off for me.”
Watch as riders and family explain just why Nick deserved the win — and hear from our other worthy winners
'There can be no more worthy recipient of this award'
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’s and decade’s winners were by all of your support. We couldn’t have worthier winners, and I hope everyone will enjoy hearing their stories first-hand.
“Thank you, too, so much to all of our sponsors, including title sponsors NAF, for their ongoing support of these awards, which have become a key part of the calendar. We can’t wait to celebrate with you all in person next year, but until then will be raising a glass to all of our winners tonight from home. Congratulations all!”
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