‘We’ve been trying to get this title for years’: New Forest pony scores HOYS win after 11 years of trying

  • Laura Avery’s dreams finally came true when her 19-year-old New Forest pony stallion Willoway Free Spirit, topped the line-up of the M&M working hunter pony 143cm championship at the 2021 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    Laura has owned the stallion by Peveril Peter Piper out of Mercury Amy, for eight years, and this was their 12th HOYS ticket.

    “He was bred by Maria Large of Willoway Stud who sadly passed away this year,” said Laura. “I produced him for a couple of years for her and then she sold him to me. We’ve been trying to get this title for years. Thankfully, the course suited him today – it was a bit more open and free-flowing. It’s just luck of the day when you get here.”

    The pair qualified at Stoneleigh Horse Show, their first show of the year.

    “He hasn’t done a lot this year because he qualified at his first show and then I did Lincoln to give him a run and then Royal International,” she said. “He got really bored over lockdown because I chucked him out with the cows – he was miserable and bored. He hates sitting in the field doing nothing, he loves to be out at his parties and I’d miss him too much. He’s still as cheeky as ever.”

    Alongside showing, ‘Spirit’ also events and won the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton in 2017.

    “We live on a farm and don’t have a school, so we mostly just hack around the farm and go and borrow a friend’s arena and have a few lessons with eventer Michael Jackson,” explained Laura. “People ask me how I keep him in such good nick, but it’s down to having good conformation. He’s an utter sweetheart and we’ll keep going as long as he’s happy to do so.”

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