A small but mighty Welsh section C stallion renowned on the showing circuit for his incredible movement and presence has passed away age 21.
Tawelfan Red Robin, a liver Chestnut standing at a modest 12.3hh, was best known for his results with native specialist Fiona Cork, who credits the stallion for putting her on the map.
“I remember the day I met him,” Fiona said. “I was at the cob sales with my parents when I spotted an amazing Welsh D at the top of the bank. When got closer, I noticed the cob got smaller and smaller until I realised in fact it was a Welsh C stallion. And not a very big one at that.
“My dad thought he was too small but we saw him move in hand and liked what we saw. His owner, Chris Machin, was clearly not overly keen on selling him and he had a high reserve on him. So we went to the ring but he went through unsold. And that was the end of that, or so I thought.”
Not one to let things go, Fiona went online, found Chris’s number and got in touch a few days after the sale.
Fiona continued: “Chris obviously didn’t want to sell him so I begged her to loan him to me, to which she hesitantly agreed. I didn’t want her to change her mind so agreed to collect him that afternoon.
“I will never forget bounding into the farm kitchen and announcing how amazing it was that I’d managed to secure the incredible Welsh C on loan. My mum had never allowed us to keep stallions but again, by some miracle, I managed to get her and Dad to take me to fetch ‘Robbie’, as he was then known by Chris.
“Their huge lorry went trundling down this tiny lane to a shed at the very bottom where he was in with some cows. We loaded him up and there began our journey.”
After a name change to Rodders, the little stallion and Fiona took the native ridden scene by storm.
“From the second he stepped in the ring he just seemed to win, even when perhaps he wasn’t foot-perfect. I was a nobody so it certainly wasn’t due to any of my connections,” Fiona said.
During the initial stages of their partnership, the Welsh Cs and Ds competed together at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the pair picked up their first ticket at Royal Cornwall show, making the line-up at the final.
“The following year we had our own class. He was really coming into his own. He was never easy and you would never know which Rodders you were going to get. Sometimes you’d put one foot in the ring and know you might as well come straight out, but generally he was on form and I learnt how to manage ‘the trot’.
Rodders went on to become a HOYS winner on two occasions, and Royal Welsh champion, and was the only pony to win the Royal Show Welsh C HOYS class, taking the title on three occasions (the show ran for a total of three years until it was cancelled.)
“After five years of showing him, I felt that I had done enough with him and it was time for him to have a new rider. After an overwhelming response to a Facebook advert, I ended up loaning him to Katie Goulding,” Fiona said.
‘He was a horse no one expected anything from, but he gave everything’
Ginny Elliot's infamous equine partner Priceless has been put down at the grand old age of 28
The eventer has said goodbye to her European Championships partner, who would ‘never give up’
“I went to help them at their first show and told Katie: ‘Don’t be fooled by how he goes in the collecting ring, he’s a different animal in the ring.’
“Like me, Katie learnt the hard way. She loved him just the same way as I did, so after a couple of years I decided that for Christmas I would sign him over to her. He owed me nothing. I owed him the best home and Katie loved him. There’ll never be another with a trot quite like Rodders.”
In 2011, Katie Goulding began her journey with Rodders. She made a 10-hour round trip from her Derbyshire base to Scotland to view him at the yard of one of Fiona’s friends.
“When I got there I couldn’t believe how nice he was in the flesh,” said Katie. “Fiona’s friend sent her a video of me riding him. Driving home seemed to take a lifetime, as I knew I was waiting for Fiona’s seal of approval.
“We actually came last in our first show, as his quirkiness completely took me by surprise. Half an hour with Fiona, and we went on to win our next class.
“My best memories include qualifying for HOYS at Cheshire County show and riding at him Olympia — we got the biggest cheer of the day after our show.
“Rodders was a grump in the stable, and would always stand with his ears back — but he never bit anyone. He loved the show ring and couldn’t contain his excitement on an outing. If he heard the lorry start he would stand in his stable rearing.
“After two years together he was signed over to me and I decided to retire him in 2016. He went to stud for two years before coming back to me on the 22 June. I lost him on the 23 July.
“He owed me nothing and brought me so many happy memories. My friends would often ask me if they could have a sit on a HOYS winner just for the photo.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.