Pony bought unseen from city centre allotments goes on to HOYS glory

A pony who was bought unseen from a “shack” in a city centre allotment has won a prestigious title at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

Lesley Cook’s nine-year-old gelding Okedene Justin won the ridden New Forest class last week under Hayley Reynolds, who bought him from a Facebook post six years ago.

Hayley told H&H Justin’s is a “real rags to riches story”.

“He was advertised as a project pony for £250,” she said, adding that the pictures of him “didn’t look great”, but that having seen a copy of his New Forest passport, she thought it worth “taking a punt”.

“I put down a £50 deposit and they gave me a postcode, but no other details on where he was – when I went to collect him, it was an allotment site in Leeds city centre.

“I rang them and said ‘is this right?’ but it was – he was there in a shack, behind all the allotments.”

The sellers told Hayley Justin had been left with them by a previous owner, and that they were just trying to recoup livery costs with the sale.

She took him home, had him castrated – which cost far more than his purchase price as he had a retained testicle – backed him and turned him away.

Lesley, who had previously shown horses, told H&H she had “pretty much given up on the idea of showing” after she lost her old showjumper, but then bought a young Dartmoor “for a bit of fun” – and was bitten by the bug again.

Credit: Poppy Fisher

She saw Justin advertised and bought him, and he came eighth at HOYS in 2018. This year, as she had been injured in an accident, she offered the ride to Hayley.

The pair qualified for HOYS at their only attempt, at the Derbyshire Festival, and then headed to the NEC Birmingham for their triumph on 2 October.

“It was quite emotional,” Lesley said. “He’s so pretty and he stands out so I did hope when he went in, but you never know. To come from what he did and win at HOYS – I’m over the moon.”

Hayley, who works full-time as a social worker, added: “He gave me such a lovely ride, and fulfilled what I’d always wanted to do.

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“I’d had a really bad year – I’d separated from my partner, and was homeless for a bit and I went into the arena thinking the only thing that could make this year better would be to win the class.

“Then when they called his name, I was in floods of tears. He really deserves the win.”

For the full report from all the action at HOYS, don’t miss this week’s H&H magazine, out 10 October.