Welsh ponies land top honours as competitors flock to vie for prestigious novice accolades and HOYS qualifications at the NPS Spring Festival, Three Counties Showground, Worcestershire
“I DO love a Welsh cob,” enthused native producer Aimee Devane, who capped a red letter day with starkly different looking – yet equally promising – Welsh section D stallions.
Berkshire-based Aimee took home National Pony Society (NPS) Silver Medal and British Isles Area supreme ridden accolades, as well as the NPS winter final qualifiers championship.
Her two respective rides were Clare Granger’s magnificent six-year-old London Golden Eye (Tom), and Lisa O’Rourke’s ultra-typey five-year-old Steppers Relight My Fire (Flame).
“It was only my third show with Tom; we’ve been keeping it all pretty low key,” said Aimee. “He’s been tricky, but the hard work is starting to pay off.”
Aimee initially approached Clare of the Dycott Stud in 2020, with the intention of using one of her stallions for breeding duties.
“Clare asked if I wanted to take Tom on for production, and he came to me last June after he’d covered some mares,” continued Aimee. “He’s a big, strong pony to hold together so we’ve taken it slowly, building up his strength and getting him on-side.
“I don’t feel he’s ready for the big qualifiers yet, but today I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what he had to offer.”
Aimee’s pure novice reserve champion Flame returned at the very end of the day to scoop the NPS final’s championship, a reckoning for ponies who had qualified for last year’s NPS finals but didn’t compete due to the cancellation of the show.
So far, Flame has achieved three wins from three starts, including novice and restricted titles at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) winter championships.
“His temperament is outstanding,” says Aimee. “It’s rare for a baby to be as reliable as he is. In many ways, he reminds me of my late stallion Aleanto Bon’A Parte, who I lost in 2019. Also, my business partner and best friend Dec Davies bred him, so it’s nice to have one of his ponies out doing well on the circuit.
“Both cobs are very different in type, so I’ve got the choice during the season depending on the judges. Flame has so much bone and feather for a young pony, while Tom just has that ‘look at me’ quality.”
HOYS QUALIFIERS COMMENCE
THE first Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers also saw Welsh ponies reign in the championship. Top of the Welsh section D field and overall with a score of 94/100 was Emma Burrow’s 11-year-old Dyffryngwy Sir Picasso, who will be returning to the NEC in the hope of reclaiming the class he won in both 2018 and 2019.
Katy Marriott-Payne landed reserve riding Chris Phillips and Charlotte Laurens’ six-year-old Welsh section C gelding Bryncarrig The Bandit.
In junior ridden ranks, two delighted young riders secured their early NEC tickets. The section title went to small breeds winners Livie Smith and Welsh section A gelding Idyllic Spartacus, who ranked over the top large breeds pairing, Katie Wadley and Llanidan Linesman.
The Welsh section D, who is owned by his producer Lili Burridge, has not been in the ring since October 2017 when he competed at HOYS as a working hunter.
“I had a bad fall from a breaker and broke my leg in several places,” said Lili, who started producing full-time last year from her yard in South Wales alongside her partner Sion Lapping. “Consequently, ‘Lanny’ hasn’t been doing much. He was the first one I rode when getting back on board as he’s so safe; we got fit together.”
Katie started riding Lanny two months ago.
“They just clicked,” added Lili. “They have worked so hard behind the scenes and have grown into a beautiful partnership. Katie’s family are very supportive and Lanny means just as much to them as he does to me.”
Working hunter contenders jumped flowing courses which made use of the abundance of grassy space and banks Three Counties showground has to offer.
There were several classes for all levels of experience, but it was 15-year-old Rebecca Raine who took home the most yearned over section title, the Royal International (RIHS) mountain and moorland (M&M) working hunter championship, aboard her own bay Connemara Carrownurlaur Johnny.
“We got him two years ago and he’d never been in a working hunter ring,” said Rebecca’s mother Karen Raine, of the Country Farm Stud. “He qualified for both RIHS and HOYS that year  as a plaited worker. He was quite lean and tubey when we got him, but as he’s matured he’s done better and better as an M&M; he even was Best of the Best M&M champion at the BSPS championships last year.
“The NPS showground is a good one for Johnny. It’s always a proper jumping track and asks the questions. He gave everything a foot today and ate up the course.”
Rebecca also won the novice 133cm M&M workers riding Welsh section B Coriolan De L’Aurore, and eight-year-old Johnny was on form all weekend, securing his plaited RIHS ticket at BSPS Area 5 the following day.
ANN and Alexandra Fowler’s prolific bloodlines were in the winnings, with their three-year-old show ring debutante Broadgrove Exactly Like You (Daisy) clinching the British Isles Area in-hand supreme with producer Simon Charlesworth. The riding pony filly by Cusop Dimension out of Deanhills Calendar Girl was flawless all day.
“She’s one of two penultimate foals by Dimension,” said Alexandra. “I tried to buy her
dam from the Turberry Stud dispersal sale but she went for too much money. When I saw her advertised again a few years ago I immediately rang her then owner and hitched the trailer up to go and get her. Daisy took it all in her stride today. She’ll be kept for my daughter, Addy, to ride in the near future.”
Addy, seven, was on board mannerly first ridden Broadgrove National Anthem to win the mini plaited accolade. The five-year-old holds a special place as he’s a grandson of the stud’s foundation mare, Oldcourt Cantata, who won at HOYS with Alexandra.
“He’s a true first ridden,” said Alexandra. “Touch wood, he only seems to make good decisions and never bad ones when Addy’s on him.”
“He’s a proper Connie”
YOUNG home-producer Megan White has ensured she’s not to be known as a “one-pony wonder’’ with her run of victories aboard her four-year-old Connemara stallion Teach Mór Pierce (Harry, pictured). The striking grey, beautifully piloted by 18-year-old Megan, has shown maturity beyond his years on his first few outings as a ridden pony. Here, Harry, who is by Thorgal De L’Aubier out of Brodella Lady Of Glory, scored Picton novice and pure novice championships.
“He’s very intelligent and has picked up everything so fast,” said Megan, who is known for her successful partnership with dun Connemara Thunderbolt Fairy Robin Bambi.
“When I qualified Robin for HOYS I decided to look for a project and saw Harry as a yearling on Facebook,” Megan continued. “He was actually standing in someone’s kitchen drinking a cup of tea, so I assumed he must have a lovely temperament. We took a gamble and bought him. Initially, I thought I’d sell him on but I’ve fallen in love with him. He’s a proper Connie with loads of bone and a leg at each corner.”
Megan, who works on a dairy farm, is aiming for the prestigious novice finals held later in the year.
“We’ll keep him a baby,” she confirmed. “It’s been nice for me to bring Harry out and have him do well. I do it all myself and hopefully it proves that Robin wasn’t a fluke.”
This report can also be read in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 6 May
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