The youngest of 39 starting horses ended up defying the odds to not only jump a flawless clear round but also scoop the top accolade in the Cuddy working hunter of the year at the 2019 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
The winning combination was event rider and producer Hayden Hankey with Irish sport horse Heads Up (Malvern), a five-year-old jointly owned by Hayden and Catherine Witt.
The gelding — who qualified for the final at the last qualifying opportunity of the year at the British Show Horse Association hunter championships just a few weeks ago — produced a stunning clear round which showed maturity and scope well beyond his years. He later returned to perform impeccably under the evening performance spotlight.
The combination has only been together for 12 months. After three summer show fixtures were cancelled due to bad weather this season, Hayden wanted Malvern to get some extra mileage on the clock. HOYS is only Malvern’s third show to date.
Taking the runner-up spot for the second year running was Louise Lyons with Paulette Cooper’s MJM Laszlo. The nine-year-old gelding, a former Royal International Horse Show champion, qualified at the Northern Ireland Festival in April.
David Cole’s rustic track provided 12 clear rounds from the starting line-up and just 10 combinations were invited back to the evening championship.
Also achieving success on the first day of the show was Thistledown Van-Der-Vaart and Lily Richardson who secured the mini Mountain and Moorland title and Francoise Babington and her own Seabourne Silent Valley who won the side-saddle ridden class.