AN impeccable performance from both horse and rider was rewarded when side saddle specialist Francoise Babington successfully defended her Mears Flooring ladies’ show horse of the year title at the 2021 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) with the super-elegant Seabourne Silent Valley (Marvin).
A strong field of 20 produced a great competition to open this year’s long-awaited show in the Andrews Bowen arena on Wednesday morning, and a fascinating mix of both experienced animals as well as some relative newcomers to the genre provided a truly absorbing spectacle.
Marvin, now 12, was foot-perfect for both Francoise — who works full time in her family’s business — and ride judge Jo Hales, who commented: “He was the sort of horse you can just sit on and enjoy the ride; he was very straight, balanced and responsive.
“I had some beautiful rides in the class and two were exceptional. However sadly, quite a few of the saddles weren’t quite balanced for me so I couldn’t sit as straight as I would have liked to — this made it very hard to get the best out of some horses.”
Marvin has already hit the heights this season, having won the ladies’ class at Lincoln, Houghton Hall and Stoneleigh, and stood champion hunter at Area 16.
“He was a total star today,” said a delighted Francoise. “I was hoping for a good result here as he loves the arena and always looks his best at this time of year under the lights. However the class is so strong now, with so many different types in it, that you never know what the judges might go for!”
For runner-up Alice Homer, 18, it was almost a remarkable double as her partner Bloomfield Eloquence — another hunter — won the equivalent class at this year’s Royal International. It was following family fortunes too, as Alice’s mother, Loraine, won here on Jonas O’Shannon in 2011.
“It was my horse’s first time here so we didn’t really know what he’d make of it,” said Alice. “He’s only seven and very young for a ladies’ horse, so I’m thrilled with this!”
The ever-cheerful mare, Mexican Summer, put up yet another classic performance to take third for long-time rider/producer Georgina Wilkes.
You might also be interested in:
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.