British Olympic showjumper Holly Smith demonstrated her all-round horsemanship by finishing third in her first hunt race, the Ledbury’s Equestrian Notice Board Golden Button Challenge, last weekend (12 February).
Holly, 32, decided to take part in the three-mile race over natural country after she enjoyed a day’s hunting with the Ledbury last year. She regularly hunts with the Quorn and the Readyfield Bloodhounds in Leicestershire, where she is based.
“Showjumping is my job, but things like this are my hobby and I have always wanted to have a go at a hunt race,” said Holly.
Holly Smith took on the Golden Button on the six-year-old Gold De Riverland, who was bought, and bred, to showjump, winning the buttons for first lady rider and first non-thoroughbred.
Holly explained: “He was a real rogue as a three-, four- and five-year-old, so we decided to hunt him all winter and make a man of him in the proper, old-fashioned way.
“I came down here for a visiting day with the Ledbury, and he seemed to be getting fitter and fitter, jumping better and better and loving his job, so I just thought, ‘Why not?’ He’s an athlete of a horse and he was a little angel today, actually. The feeling of survival when we finished was fantastic and it was a real buzz.
“The start of the race was quite chaotic as a few people fell [fence three, a big hedge and ditch, caused some trouble] and then there were loose horses. We had a lovely ride round the middle part of the race, and then there were some horses stopping towards the end, but ‘Max’ was brilliant — he just jumped straight past them.”
Gold De Riverland jumped double clear at 1.25m last weekend, but Holly might also take him eventing this summer. She enjoys producing a few young eventers to sell alongside her international showjumping career, and in 2020 finished 12th in the CCI2*-S at Cornbury House Horse Trials in Oxfordshire.
Holly’s Tokyo Olympics ride, Denver, was sold to French rider Sadri Fergaier, towards the end of last year. She also rode for Britain at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon and was part of the team that won the bronze medal at the 2019 European Championships in Rotterdam, both times aboard Hearts Destiny.
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