Blistering gallop secures championship victory at North Of England Spring *H&H Plus*

  • It’s all to play for in the show hunter pony championship, while a supersized plaited coloured comes into his own

    THE result of the Royal International (RIHS) show hunter pony championship was a timely reminder that it’s always worth returning for the final reckoning – and giving it your all once in there – if donning a blue rosette.

    The 153cm hunter pony class produced the section’s champion and reserve, however it was second-placed Zara Brookes aboard her father Nick’s seasoned Merrycorner Mister Bui (Buttons) (pictured top) who rode to the section title, over ticket winners Nieve Goldrick and Mr Oscar Cookson.

    “He went well all day, and in the championship I thought I might as well go for it,” said Zara, who is based with Team Walker and was making her season debut with former RIHS hunter pony supreme Buttons, now eight. “It was a bit of a shock, but it proved you should always go back in.”

    “The class was a very close-run competition,” confirmed hunter pony judge Sharon Harrison. “My mentor, Stuart Hollings, always told me that the championship is a different class and is to be judged that way. I asked all the combinations for a good gallop and the second-placed 15-hander had the edge, so it was only fair to swap them round. I adored the 133cm winner, but he unfortunately ran out of steam in the championship.”

    The Edward Young-produced 128cm Tuscany Sweet Serenade (Cate Mitchell) was the top open show pony, while Wilderness Early Bird (Mia Donaldson) took the 148cm qualifier and section reserve.


    Robert Walker clinches the hunter championship aboard Viewpoint, with son Sam securing the reserve title on middleweight Chief Whip

    Robert Walker clinches the hunter championship aboard Viewpoint, with son Sam securing the reserve title on middleweight Chief Whip

    TEAM WALKER headed all three hunter weight classes, but leading man Robert was only on board winning lightweight and eventual champion Viewpoint, who made light of the grass arena to reign over top middleweight, Chief Whip, ridden by Robert’s 16-year-old son Sam. Sam is back in the ring after a hiatus since HOYS 2019.

    “They looked an absolute picture together,” said a proud Robert, adding that it was just a week ago that keen huntsman Sam had been playing around with the show horses at home. “At around 6pm last night, Sam asked if he could bring Chief Whip here. It took me by surprise, and as he’s never actually sat on him before we went back outside and had a quick ride, before I quickly got in touch with Catherine Burdock at Sports Horse Breeding (GB) to fill in the paperwork.”

    Head girl Aimee Stunt finished the hat-trick by topping the heavyweight qualifier with Crown Star, but only after securing the novice reserve with him, behind Robert on Matchpoint.

    “Robert Oliver did always tell me that I had to learn to delegate more,” added Robert. “It was lovely to have all three of us in the championship, even though we’re competitive. Sam has since told me that he’s riding Chief Whip at Hickstead in July, which I said we’d have to see about!”

    Robert was also victorious on Miranda Wallace’s elegant large riding horse Springpond Diamond Legacy.

    “She’s still green outside, but gets her head in the game in the ring,” said Robert of the seven-year-old who was supreme novice at the 2020 British Show Horse Autumn Gala show.

    Robert admitted “the pressure was on” when piloting his final ride, Miranda’s large hack Forgeland Hyde Park, who secured his class and the overall. The 10-year-old RIHS and HOYS champion has a new producer in Robert, after previously being based with Jayne Ross.

    Alan Marnie’s “lockdown hack” Bling Cobsby (Marco) was top of the cobs with Alan’s partner Vicky Smith in the saddle.

    “He spent last year having the best time going on hunt rides,” said Vicky of the now 12-year-old. “He was excited to be back out and everyone commented on how fresh he was looking.

    “Not having ride judges is allowing us to ease back into it, and the horses, especially the novices, are benefiting. The societies really have gone above and beyond this year.”

    Cob Champion 51 BLING COBSBY R: Vicky Smith

    Bling Cobsby stands cob champion with Vicky Smith in the saddle

    The coloured tricolour went to Amy Riley on her own plaited horse Optimus Prime (Binky). Amy has owned the nine-year-old gelding – who stands at around 18hh – for three years.

    “He’s probably done more dressage than showing due to Covid,” said Amy, who trains with Rebecca Greenwood. “He’s taken a while to mature as he’s so big but he’s starting to peak now. Here, his laid-back personality and size suited the big ring; he felt amazing and I really enjoyed it.”

    Coloured Champion 27 OPTIMUS PRIME R: Amy Riley

    Plaited horse Optimus Prime (Amy Riley) nets the coloured tricolour


    ON only their second outing together, Karen Johnson’s dun Welsh section D stallion Menai Eurostar (GB) and Pippa Telfer captured the UK Ponies and Horses (UKPH) young rider title. Pippa started working for producers Team Jinks in lockdown last year.

    “They’ve been getting together at home which has paid off as he went beautifully today,” said co-producer Adam Forster, who also later rode the 10-year-old to win his RIHS open qualifier. “He seems to get better and better.”

    The RIHS open Heritage spoils went to Tracey Milward, riding her mannerly and ultra-typey Highland stallion Lochlands Gypsy Baron.

    “He’s a proper stamp”

    Mini Champion 204 ROSEDEW AFTER EIGHT R: Arabella Pickles

    TEAM AHERN’S delightful show hunter pony lead-rein Rosedew After Eight (Boris, pictured) scooped the RIHS mini crown with Arabella Pickles on their third outing as a combination.

    The five-year-old bred by Louise Turnbull and by Cadlanvalley Imperial out of Greendown Nutty Crunch was bought from Ann and Alexandra Fowler of the Broadgrove Stud last summer after a lot of “persuasion” from Arabella’s mother Kirsty.

    “I found him by accident really,” said Kirsty. “I was on the hunt for a show hunter for a client and approached the Fowlers. They had Boris for their own little girl, and despite being reluctant to sell him, they eventually let us have him.”

    Boris, Arabella and handler Alex Ahern are yet to be beaten.

    “He’s a proper stamp of a hunter pony; he’s so compact,” added Kirsty. “He always comes out with his ears pricked, too, and so far he’s not missed a beat with Arabella.”

    Reserve was Betsy May Allen riding grandmother Kath Allen’s winning show pony lead-rein Wytchwood Love Potion, expertly handled by Besty May’s half cousin Glen Allen. Glen was later back in action to win on intermediate show riding type Greylands Ace High, who is also Hickstead bound as a small riding horse.

    This report is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (15 April, 2021)

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