Meet HOYS supreme pony Coco Bongo *H&H Plus*

  • Continuing our series on horses and ponies we can’t wait to see after lockdown, Alex Robinson profiles the little grey who made history at the 2019 Horse of the Year Show

    Coco Bongo

    Age: 11
    Breeding: unknown
    Owner: Will Calder
    Riders: Chloe Lemieux and Jessica Calder
    Greatest achievements: HOYS 133cm working hunter pony (WHP) of the year, overall WHP champion and supreme pony; BSPS Desert Orchid WHP final champion; first 133cm WHP and nursery stakes Royal Highland show; second RIHS 133cm and nursery stakes (all 2019).

    Owner Will Calder

    “We bought ‘Bluebell’ from friends of ours in Inverness. They purchased her from Ireland a couple of years before and had just done some local showing with her. It was our current producers, Russell Skelton and James Munro, who said we should give her a go. ‘She’s been out of work and she doesn’t look much at the minute, but she can certainly jump,’ they said.

    “My daughter Jess rides her in nursery stakes classes. Last April we stopped at a friend’s on the way to the British Show Pony Society [BSPS] winter championships and Jess broke her wrist. I turned to social media to find a jockey, and Chloe Lemieux replied. Chloe and Bluebell won twice that weekend and Chloe kept the ride in the open 133cms for the season.

    “Bluebell just wants to get on with her work. I don’t have a single nice picture of her standing with a rosette, as she just wants to go after the presentation. At home she is a sweetheart, though she doesn’t like to be caught in the field.

    “We have always known she was good enough to jump round the course at Horse of the Year Show [HOYS], but winning the supreme was a complete shock.

    “The current situation means Jess has had time to practise without the pressure, and they’ve been able to gel as a partnership for when the shows start again.”

    Rider Chloe Lemieux

    “When I first saw Bluebell I was quite surprised at how small she was; she stands at just 12.2hh. I thought she was pretty cute, but when I had a jump she was quite sharp and really took me into the fences.

    “She’s a busy little mare and she’s very quick. She can get quite compact while jumping so I keep nice and relaxed so she can maintain a rhythm.

    “At the Royal International [RIHS] final, we stood second after knocking the very last fence, so my only hope at HOYS was that we go clear.

    “It was only our fifth show together and we were first to jump so I was quite nervous. Bluebell didn’t spook at anything and jumped a lovely, rhythmic round.

    “Riding in the main arena for the working hunter championship was fun and Bluebell really galloped for me. Before the supreme, my trainer Sam Roberts gave me some tips, telling me to ‘gallop my socks off’. We were in there with all these fancy show ponies, but we gave it our all and it paid off.

    “I’ve now handed the reins over to Jess and I look forward to watching them together.”

    Judge Terry Court

    “When I judged this mare to win the 2019 HOYS supreme with my co-judge Tim Price, I thought she was just outstanding and the picture with her young jockey was perfect in every way. She was a top example of a working pony with great conformation, a beautiful head and a willing eye. She also had such exceptional movement.

    “It was a strong class with some lovely animals forward. In a supreme field, you have to judge each animal in their own right as opposed to looking at type and breed.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 July 2020