How a dressage-bred Oldenburg became a 7’2” HOYS puissance winner

  • The joint winner of the 2021 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) puissance is an Oldenburg accidental showjumper, who was bred for dressage but “went on to do what he loves”.

    Emilia Hewer was trying to breed her next dressage horse when she put her mare Wanona (Daisy) to Suzanne Lavandera’s late stallion Keystone Rhondeo.

    The result was Senators Rhondaigo, or Ronnie, the eight-year-old who cleared 7’2” last Saturday night to take the HOYS puissance crown under Joseph Trunkfield, with Michael Duffy on RMS Charly.

    “I’m still a bit overwhelmed,” Emilia, of Senators Stud, told H&H. “He was born a complete and utter hunk; my husband Dan delivered him so it’s even more special to have been there when he was born and see him go on to this.”

    Dan’s late father Lenny, and mother Sherry, started the stud, and Dan now breeds Welsh section Cs and Ds. His son breeds Welsh As and Emilia a few warmbloods.

    “I’ve been trying to breed myself a dressage superstar but they want to jump!” Emilia said.

    “I started with Daisy, who’s absolutely beautiful but a bit hot-headed and I wanted to mellow her a bit. I went to Suzanne for help and she said Rhondeo would be perfect.

    “I used him twice; Ronnie’s full brother, who’s a year younger, is in Ireland and has just won the nationals at advanced medium. I could have kicked myself as when I had the two boys, I decided I wanted to keep Ronnie, thinking I’d make him into a dressage diva, but his brother’s the one doing dressage now, I thought ‘Damn it!’

    “What’s really sad is that their sire isn’t with us any more, or I’d never have used another stallion.”

    When Ronnie was older and had been backed, and grown to some 17.1hh, Emilia sent him to showjumper Tom Monaghan for some “hacking and education”.

    “When he’d had him a few days, he asked if he could play him over a few poles and we said fine,” Emilia said. “Quite quickly, Tom was back on the phone to say ‘This is no dressage horse’.

    “I got quite defensive and was all ‘He’s my horse, he’s not jumping!’ I brought him home and it quickly became clear that I was holding him back from what he loved to do.”

    Emilia said Ronnie was not into the flatwork; he was an “adrenaline junkie and so brave’.

    “I saw the look on his face when he jumped and thought ‘What am I doing? I have to let this horse do what he loves’,” she said.

    So thanks to Stuart Harvey and Tom Hedgecock, Emilia found Ronnie “the most incredible home” with Alex Somerville-Cotton, and the rest is history.

    “I did cry for two weeks after he was sold but to see him now,” she said. “The dream was to see him jump at Hickstead, let alone win the puissance at HOYS!

    “His sire did have a bit of a jump but it’s funny; people have said they can’t believe I bred a dressage horse who’s won a 7’2” puissance.”

    Emilia said Ronnie’s temperament, as is the case with Rhondeo’s other offspring, is “amazing”, as shown when the eye-catching gelding turned not a hair in the explosive atmosphere of Saturday night at HOYS.

    “It’s amazing to own and breed temperament like that with the talent; to have both is quite special,” she said. “What I love most about him is that he’s a trier, he’ll give anything a go.

    “Someone said it was something else to see a horse of his age in that class, and he took it all in his stride. You’ll never find a bigger fan of that horse than me.”

    Emilia still has Daisy, and a young half-sister to Ronnie whom she hopes will be that dressage star in future. And in the meantime, she is hoping to be able to watch Ronnie jump in the puissance at the London International Horse Show this Christmas.

    “People have said don’t I regret selling him — but why would you, after a Saturday night like that?” she said. “He’s found an incredible home with Alex, and fabulous riders, and he loves it.”

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