This year’s hack championship at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) was a true clash of the Titans, with a major rewind thrown in for good measure. After two strong classes, the finale came down to the wire between two exceptional animals — the 2019 HOYS champion and large winner Forgeland Hyde Park (Will) and that year’s reserve, the small winner, Parkgate Royal Visit William.
Now, as then, William was piloted by producer Robert Walker for owner Nick Brookes, but Will — champion then under Jayne Ross for the Wallaces but now in the hands of Danielle Heath and owned by the Mears family – again just had the edge.
Danielle has only had Will for two months, but has already established a formidable partnership with the Kilvington Scoundrel 10-year-old. The pair stood champion at Stoneleigh and were Classic supreme champions at the British Show Horse Association national championships last month.
The sublimely elegant combination made everything look effortless but, as at Arena UK last month, Danielle was quick to acknowledge the training “Will” has had with both Jayne and Robert Walker, who next produced him.
“Both winners gave me exceptional rides,” enthused judge Lucinda Haines, whose sympathetic style garnered many favourable comments. “They were beautifully schooled and true hack rides — it was a very close decision but in the end, the large winner just had the edge.”
Co-judge Anne Varley agreed. “There were some lovely types, and it was so nice to see so many youngsters coming through. Although the five-year-olds lacked the normal mileage because of missing their first year under saddle due to Covid, it did mean that many had been able to furnish and grow into themselves.”
Amazingly, although Danielle has had hunter and riding horse titles here, it was her first HOYS hack championship and also a first HOYS win for owners and sponsors, the Mears family.
“Will just felt on fire,” said Danielle. “He was so mannerly and just felt like he owned the ring. I knew he could do the job and he’s a true showman, so I just wanted to go in there and enjoy the moment as the class was such a blur – I was so nervous with so much to live up to!”
Parkgate Royal Visit William was also foot-perfect, ticking all the boxes too. Producer Robert Walker — champion hack here previously with Pencroft Blue Print and twice with Silent Words — was champion at RIHS with William this term and also at North of England, where Nick’s daughter Zara landed the intermediate title.
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