Tales from Hartpury: ‘We wanted to breed something no one had seen before’ *H&H Plus*

  • Meet dressage newcomers and newly-crowned Petplan Equine novice bronze champions, Victoria Homden and Olly, who is far from your typical dressage horse

    Just a mere 48 hours after sitting in a dressage saddle for the very first time, Victoria Homden was crowned the winner of the Petplan Equine novice bronze at the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships.

    Victoria was riding the six-year-old 14hh stallion Olly, a home-bred Welsh/traditional cob, and this win is their eighth in a row. 

    “Olly is my little cob who we bred at home, and he just seems to keep performing and doing really well,” said Victoria. “He is Welsh crossed with a little traditional cob, so he has all these feathers and a long mane that’s been all plaited up.

    “We bred him hoping to produce something smart that no one had seen before. We knew it might work out like Marmite and we’d either love him or hate him. Luckily we love him!”

    Victoria is a riding instructor in Hampshire, and also runs a livery yard with her friend Sammi Illston. 

    “We have only really done dressage over the last year – obviously through Covid it has been tricky, but up until then I just used to ride the odd test to get him out but I never thought I’d take it seriously. But somehow we have just kept winning – I’m not sure if it’s just down to luck or because we are trying really hard.

    This was also the first time Victoria had ridden a test in a dressage saddle, with it only arriving with her on Monday morning this week.

    “The rest of the time we have just been in a general purpose saddle,” explained Victoria, who works as a riding instructor and also runs a livery yard. “It arrived at 9.30am on Monday and I quickly rode in it on Monday and again yesterday around working and teaching. I was teaching until 8pm last night, then I bathed Olly, and set my alarm for 2.30m this morning. So yes, this was only the third time I have ever ridden in a dressage saddle!”

    The new saddle has been well and truly christened, with Victoria and Olly clocking up a super score of 71.18%. 

    “Olly has a lovely canter with really good gears, and he has quite an expressive trot as well,” says Victoria, 32, who did showing before taking up dressage. “Now it’s really just about me getting stronger so I can rider him better, and just feeling more confident in the test. When I ride the test I can freak out – halfway through my test today I was doing a circle and thinking, ‘Where have I got to go next?’

    “I’ve never done regionals, never done nationals – this is my first time. I had never even owned a horse until Olly – I always loaned or rode a friend’s or customer’s,” she added. 

    Victoria trains with Katharine Lewis, who sadly could not be at the championships having suffered a nasty fall a couple of weeks ago. 

    “Dannie Morgan has helped over in the past couple of weeks, but I really wanted to do this here for Katharine because obviously she couldn’t be here and I wanted to make her proud. She started Olly when he was four and we’re still going with her so that’s lovely. 

    “Down the line I want to do some elementaries – we have done one so far – and also some music classes. Olly is named after Olly Murs, so I would love to ride him to Olly Murs’ music.”

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