Elton John is heading for HOYS — in two different disciplines.
The 15.1hh gelding, owned and ridden by Daniella Johnston, had already qualified for the intermediate working hunters at Horse of the Year Show when he headed for the Science Supplements All England September Tour at Hickstead this month.
Having only ever jumped one 1.40m class, a fortnight before, the 12-year-old gelding took on the Talent Seekers HOYS qualifier and came second. He and Daniella will now contest both the Talent Seekers final and the intermediate workers at HOYS within days.
“I got my dates a bit muddled and thought the Talent Seekers was the grade C final, which is at the end of the week,” Daniella told H&H. “So I thought that was fine and we’d be doing the workers first, then realised it’s the other way round. So he’ll be jumping 1.40-1.45m first, then he’ll probably trip over the workers course at 1.15-1.20m!”
Daniella bought Elton as a six-year-old; he had gone to Adam Botham to be sold.
“We were looking for an intermediate worker and he said he had one that was a bit small for his job,” Daniella said. “He was very scrawny and donkey-like, with these huge ears and not a lot of body, but luckily Mum was able to see through that, and he’s just gone from strength to strength.”
Elton won the intermediate workers at HOYS 2019, having taken the same title at the Royal International the previous year at Hickstead.
“He’d won just about all there was to win so we decided to have a real bash at the showjumping,” Daniella said. “I had always jumped him about 1.20m so I stepped him up a bit, to 1.25-1.30m. He won at Bolesworth last year when the [British Showjumping] national championships were held there, and I thought ‘Maybe there is a bit more in the tank’.
“He then won the 1.25m grand prix at the Arena UK championships last September — I’m going there next week and will jump the young riders’ class at 1.35m this time as I can’t really expect him just to be jumping 1.20m and then go to do the Talent Seekers at HOYS!”
But Elton John had only just made the final step up for the Talent Seekers at Hickstead. Daniella explained that he had jumped the 1.30m “Desert Orchid” class at the British Show Pony Society championships on August 28, then the next day, he went to a show at Willow Banks.
“I said ‘This sounds really crackers but I fancy putting him in the 1.40m’,” Daniella said. “Mum was a bit ‘What planet are you on?’ I don’t think she really took me seriously but we went clear and came second, to Lisa Jones who won the international stairway at the Great Yorkshire Show.
“I jumped the 1.35m Douglas Bunn challenge with the Derby fences [on 11 September] and he jumped clear and I was ecstatic, so I just entered the Talent Seekers on a whim, the day before. It was 1.35m but table A10 so the second half of the course was 1.40m. He went clear and I thought ‘Sh*t, it’s going to be massive in the jump-off!’”
With some manoeuvring needed to jump Elton off, and compete another horse in the main ring at the same time, Daniella only found out she had qualified after the class when she came back to ask the judge — and promptly burst into tears.
“I was ecstatic with him,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed and so proud of him, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Daniella and her “powerhouse” pocket rocket — or Rocket Man, perhaps — are now looking forward to HOYS. And as far as his name goes, that was given to him in his native Holland.
“He’s pure showjumping bred; by Verdi, out of a Heartbreaker mare, and then there’s that name,” she said. “We looked at his full- or half-brother and he was called Elton John LV or something so I don’t know; maybe the real Elton John had just given a concert in town!”
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