Sabino leads starlets crowned at STARS Champions of Champions

  • A coloured mare with quirky tendencies gets her head in the game, a 14-year-old pilot shines on a riding horse and a trusty Exmoor excels at STARS Champions of Champions, Aintree Equestrian Centre, Merseyside

    A TRADITIONAL mare confirmed her owner’s decision to persevere with her career despite her tricky temperament as she trotted to the supreme in-hand accolade at STARS Champions of Champions.

    The main arena at Aintree Equestrian Centre was transformed into an atmospheric show ring replicating the buzzy, electric environment found at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). Home-produced competitors, aptly named “starlets”, represented riding clubs and Pony Club branches from across the country, with most of the classes boasting 40-plus entries.

    Star of the in-hand field was Shaz and Steve Rowe’s seven-year-old Psycho Sabino (Ivy), handled by Jessie Jefferson. Ivy, who was reserve supreme at the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association Traditional of the Year Show (TOYS) in July, was sourced as a foal from her breeder and has run with Shaz’s herd of horses ever since.

    “We’d been to view another horse but Steve picked Ivy out from the group of youngsters; he knew she’d be something special,” explained Lloc and District Riding Club member Shaz. “She was named ‘Psycho’ Sabino as while she looks like butter wouldn’t melt, she’s so opinionated and has been really tricky; rearing is her party trick if you leave her to give another horse any attention.”

    Ivy has been late to mature so Shaz has intentionally left her to develop at her own pace.

    “She did some showing as a youngster but wasn’t ready,” added Shaz. “We’ve only recently started riding her and we’re taking it slowly. She still lives out full-time at home but she seems to adore the spotlight. We’ve been on such a journey together so there were a lot of tears after this win.”

    Exmoor claims ridden supreme at STARS Champions of Champions

    THE ridden supreme went to the 10-year-old Exmoor gelding Bluebarn Beharry (Harry) and seven-year-old Rossendale Valley Riding Club member Maisie Sharp. The pair were led out by Maisie’s mother, Stephanie Sharp, who bought Harry as an unbroken five-year-old.

    Bluebarn Beharry on his way to the ridden supreme title at STARS Champion of Champions show

    “We’ve not done much with him,” said a shocked Stephanie. “We just aimed to have fun.”

    Maisie and Harry won a strong lead-rein equitation class en route to the overall supreme held in Sunday’s evening performance.

    “He’s a good boy and is so well mannered that Maisie would trust him with her life,” added Stephanie, who also led Maisie and her novice hunter pony, Fairywood Ariel, to eighth in her lead-rein class.

    Twelve-year-old Amber Danter of Cliviger Equestrian Club achieved an impressive double in both the first ridden and show hunter pony finals aboard her delightful 128cm bay gelding Megland Othello.

    Megland Othello

    The seven-year-old was sourced by Amber’s mother, Amy Rhodes, as a two-year-old and the family have produced him through the ranks from home. Othello was a 2021 Royal International (RIHS) finalist in Pretty Polly ranks.

    “He’s been the best pony in the world and is a real steady Eddie,” said Amy. “We came here aiming for a top-10 finish but never expected two wins.”

    In horse ranks, Macclesfield and District Riding Club’s Finn Williamson, who is just 14 years old, rode Kirsty Spencer’s big-moving riding horse Port Lou Lou to the ridden show horse tricolour. “Roxy”, a 12-year-old, has been on loan to Finn for three years.

    Port Lou Lou

    “Kirsty had three lovely foals from Roxy and she was only broken in as a nine-year-old,” said Finn. “We’ve been to STARS previously in the in-hand show horse class but decided to try for the ridden section. Winning is a dream come true.”

    Hayley Clements’ 13-year-old Knocklong (Knocks) topped the retrained racehorse class for Three Valleys Riding Club.

    “He was trained by point-to-point trainer Justin Landy and I used to ride him out and go with him to meets,” said Hayley, whose daughter Sophie was on board. “When I started his retraining process I never thought he’d turn into a show horse; he’s blossomed into a swan.”

    “He’s very trainable and versatile,” added Hayley of the gelding, who was amateur champion with Sophie at the Retraining of Racehorses championships at Aintree in August.

    “She’s going to be big”

    PUDDLEDUB SHOWS member Hunter Macdonald’s journey from north Scotland to Liverpool for STARS Champions of Champions was well worth the effort when his home-bred three-year-old Achilty Miss Independent (Pin) topped a 40-head youngstock final.

    The pure-bred Trakehner by Grafenstolz was ending her youngstock career on a high, adding this title to wins attained at the Caledonian Championships and the Scottish Horse Show. Hunter runs Achilty Sport Horses with his family.

    “I hope she’ll come out under saddle as a riding horse but we’ll give her a season to mature; she’s going to be a big mare,” explained Hunter. “It was a special result, especially with a home-bred.”

    The 22-year-old Fell stallion Ludworth Viking (Jack), owned by Nicki Ash, and Kerry Louise Whiteman from Northern Lights Riding Club were crowned ridden veteran champions as well as reserve in the ridden mountain and moorland final, behind Leoni Majid and the dun Connemara gelding Bens Lightning Star. Kerry has been riding Jack for six years.

    “He’s the most laid-back pony but laps up an atmosphere; we did our lap of honour twice as I couldn’t stop,” said Kerry of Jack, who has sired several successful ponies.

    Kerry also led her own Welsh section D gelding Nantymynydd Mab, also 22, to reserve in the in-hand veteran final.

    STARS Champions of Champions: “He’s not a ploddy cob”

    YOUNG rider Bonnie Follows and Sandra Samuels’ traditional coloured Patrick were crowned champions of both the ridden coloured and cob sections, turning several heads in the process.

    Patrick at STARS Champion of Champions show

    The eight-year-old gelding and 16-year-old Lodge Farm Riding Club member Bonnie have enjoyed a bumper first season in the show ring together, lifting the coloured accolade at Equifest, the junior supreme at the Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) championships and securing several top-three placings in HOYS qualifiers. Sandra found Patrick as an unhandled five-year-old in a field in the middle of Cannock Chase.

    “He was very poor and I spent a few months building him up before starting his education,” said Sandra. “I thought I’d possibly bitten off more than I could chew, but after a few months I decided to throw the tack on him and we’ve not looked back. Patrick loves his work and he adores Bonnie, as she does him.”

    Bonnie’s father, Stephen Follows, added: “Patrick is quite a quirky, sharp ride and he’s the sort of horse you have to ask before you do anything; he’s definitely not a ploddy cob. We aim to do some more HOYS qualifiers, and hopefully he’ll get there as he’s been knocking on the door this year.”

    • This exclusive report will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 2 December

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