‘You dream of this, but never think it will happen’: Championship titles for 27-year-old former broodmare and 20-year-old coloured horse

  • The circuit’s biggest celebration of veteran horses and ponies took place on Hickstead ground for the very first time and the spacious grass ring of the Roger Stack arena provided the perfect setting for the 2021 A. D Evans Insurance/Senior Showing And Dressage Ltd (SSADL) championships.

    Welsh ponies — at either end of the height scale — took champion and reserve in the in-hand final. Scooping the top spot was the ever-green 27-year-old palomino Welsh section A mare Maesglas Lili Wen who could have passed for a four-year-old as she led the line-up on her lap of honour. Her owner, Samantha Norris, kept in perfect step with “Poppy” throughout.

    Samantha was gifted Poppy, a former broodmare, as a 21st birthday present. The mare also suffered a tendon injury a few years ago and after being turned away made a remarkable comeback.

    Poppy has recently started competing between the white boards:

    “We’ve also done some workers and fun rides to keep her fresh,” said Samantha, who works for Ticketmaster. “But she still loves her showing over everything else.”

    Poppy has been a regular face in the SSADL championships when they were held at Olympia. Her best result prior to 2021 was ninth.

    “You dream of this moment, but you never think it will happen,” continued Samantha, who clearly couldn’t believe what her pony had just achieved. “She went lovely for me but you just can’t expect to win.

    “Poppy seems to have thrived better here (at Hickstead). She’s settled down and she liked the big ring.”

    The journey from Samantha’s northern base took about seven hours, but Poppy came off the box “as fresh as ever”.

    “She’s a typical Welsh and she just loves a show,” Samantha concluded. “Which is why the Royal Welsh is her all time favourite event.”

    Amy Simcox was called into reserve with her mother Bev Simcox’s Welsh section D stallion Minyffordd Mabinogion. The 18-year-old bay, a new face to SSADL ranks, is a multi-garlanded ridden pony, competing at the Royal International (RIHS) and Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) under saddle during his youth.

    Royal Jester and Clare Edwards

    In the ridden section, coloured horses prevailed, with 20-year-old plaited skewbald gelding Royal Jester and Clare Edwards being presented with the championship, ahead of Amy Hunter and her 18-year-old traditional Pilgrim, another SSADL regular.

    The oldest pony to contest the finals was 31-year-old Welsh section C Bronheulog Principle.

    “I’ve owned him for 26 years,” said his owner/handler Danielle Twitchen, who competes with “Danny” in driving trials. “He does single, tandem and team, and he’s competed nationally and internationally. He’s taught all my children to drive, too.”

    The pair entered their first showing class in 2019 and qualified for the SSADL finals on their first attempt.

    “He rules the roost at home and he’s my golden child,” added Danielle

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