The buzz of the usual Royal Highland format is missed, but the blue sashes and top-class competitors are still evident
A GELDING and future ridden pony achieved a rare feat as he rose above his rivals to stand overall Highland pony champion.
Sarah-Jane Forbes and her male champion, six-year-old Kincardine Uist, by Glenbanchor Gillebrighde out of Kincardine Gael, got the nod to stand supreme over Susan Wardrop’s home-bred female champion, the Carlung Jed 10-year-old Querina Of Carlung.
The decision, however, was not reached without some conflict, as respective male and female section judges Pat Stirling and Bruce Haliburton both pushed for their champions to be crowned overall. In this instance, the day’s umpire, esteemed breeder Willie Allan of the Millfield Stud, was called in from the sidelines to pull the final champion.
“For the benefit of the breed my heart would have gone with the mare,” explained Willie. “But my head told me to put the gelding up; both ponies were fine specimens, but the mare, while she was looking tremendous, didn’t give me as good a show. The gelding looked well and was on his toes throughout. When you’re put in a situation as such you have to rely on the job the judges have done and pick the animal which has the edge on the day.”
Beef and sheep farmer Sarah-Jane was first acquainted with Uist back in February.
“I dropped a horse off at a breaker’s yard in Peterhead and saw Uist in the stable,” she reminisced. “A couple of months later he came up for sale. At that point I’d seen him only from the neck up, so in effect I bought him unseen. It was a last-minute decision to bring him here; he’s only been to one show before, so we thought the quieter format of the show would be a good stepping stone for him.”
Sarah-Jane’s aim before she stepped foot on the showground was to place in the top six.
“The class win was so humbling,” added Sarah-Jane, who last won a championship on Royal Highland turf in 2008. “In both the male championship and the supreme he was up against mature, working breeding ponies, but it proves that a correct, true-to-type gelding who is hard to fault can achieve great things. I will be pinching myself for some time.”
The two sections of the main ring were opened up for the ridden Highland ponies, and making use of the ample space with his powerful paces was the eventual champion, Gillian McMurray’s home-bred 12-year-old Trailtrow Tearlach ridden by Kirstin McMurray. The stallion by Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) winner Moss-side Maclaren out of Trailtrow Tilliwhillie was contending his first open class.
“He enjoyed the big grassy ring,” said Gillian of the stallion who was also reserve overall male in-hand champion in the morning. “We’ve taken our time with him. He lives with me and I ride him a lot so he has to be easy to manage. Kirstin even took him arena eventing last year, to keep his interest. He has a pony head and plenty of bone, too, with nice short cannons.”
Clydesdales took to the rings on Wednesday, and coming out as champion was the Clark family’s magnificent two-year-old colt, Muirton Spirit, bred in Northern Ireland by Sandra Henderson and sired by Muirton Sabre out of Croaghmore Roxy. As a foal, Spirit was supreme at the Kilpatrick Foal Show.
Yearling filly Roughlands Majestic Lady, by Redcastle Brelee Majestic out of Roughlands Elegance, scored the female tricolour and took home the prestigious Cawdor Cup for Iain and Alana Johnstone.
TOSSING A COIN
SOME healthy spouse rivalry was seen in the HOYS hunter showdown, as producer Magnus Nicholson rode his heavyweight winner, Bowland Lucky Slipper, in the overall championship, while his wife, Kate, took the reins of leading middleweight, Remember Rossmore (Scottie).
While both horses produced faultless performances, it was Kate and the 10-year-old Rubin Star N gelding who took the iconic blue sash over second-placed middleweight Romanno Royale (Harrison Taylor).
Scottie was bought by Don Barton at the beginning of the pandemic from Diane Brash, who had her own cause for celebration at the Royal Highland, when her niece Lexi Brash won the HOYS mountain and moorland (M&M) junior ridden championship aboard Welsh section A Wellbank Gabriel.
“I saw Scottie at the Scottish Horse Show in 2019 and just loved his stamp,” enthused Magnus. “He really moves and he gave me a lovely ride today, though as I adore my old friend Lucky Slipper, I gave Scottie to Kate; she rides him at home so she knows him really well. He’s super-relaxed and he’s perfect for the job; nothing goes to his head.”
Course-designer Graham Barclay tested the native ponies with a 12-fence track set on a hilly grass ring which required stamina and fitness as well as a flowing rhythm. Competitors were also given substantial space to impress the show and conformation judge.
The eventual champion came from the 122cm section in the form of 10-year-old Welsh section A Malby Mahyong (Jessica Burdess), though an error made when noting down the final marks later revealed that the class winner was actually Emma Byrne riding Paula Smith’s Welsh section A Littledean Morning Light, also 10, who, thankfully, had already picked up a HOYS ticket earlier in the season at Stoneleigh.
“I bought him at six months old,” said Paula of the gelding who is also Royal International (RIHS) bound. Emma Vince’s victorious plaited horse Rhyfel Saxon Prince gave his producer Danni Radford a stand-out ride and ground-covering gallop in the HOYS coloured championship to clinch the tricolour. The nine-year-old gelding has been owned by Emma since he was a foal and Danni backed him as a three-year-old.
“I always liked him so I asked Emma if I could have him back to ride,” said Danni. “He can be cheeky on the ground, though he’s super-easy when you’re on board and he has an amazing canter.”
A SAINT OF A PONY
SIX-YEAR-OLD jockey Harriet Walsh-White, contending her first HOYS qualifier, impressed with her Julie Templeton-produced lead-rein of hunter type Littlebriars Horatio to win his ticket and section title.
“He’s a saint of a pony,” said Harriet’s mother Anna White of the former RIHS winner. Harriet was back on winning form on Sunday at Three Counties, taking the lead-rein show ponies and section accolade riding double HOYS winner Chaseford Actor.
Another gelding shone during the Price Family in-hand crowning to be judge Walter Bowie’s choice for the ticket. This was Charlie Cousins’ big-moving home-bred Stanley Grange Regal Heights three-year-old riding pony Colonel Mustard.
“She’d had her jaw broken”
ARGUABLY the most popular winners of the show were the duo who topped the HOYS ladies’ side-saddle qualifier, Emma Dewhurst riding Michelle Feeney’s eight-year-old grey mare Ballyhoulihan Rags To Riches. While an elegant show horse in the ring, “Reagan” is of unknown breeding and had a sad start in life.
“Her former owner found her in a barn and bought her out of pity,” said Michelle, who runs an events haulage business with her husband. “She was skin and bone and had two weeks left to live.
“I came across her advert when I was sitting in the O2 Arena car park loading a lorry – I had a feeling that she was the horse for me, so I bought her with the money I’d got from my divorce. She came over from Ireland with no name, no breeding and she was incredibly scared of men. It later came out that she’d had her jaw broken at some point.”
After some local competitions with Michelle, Emma took the reins on Reagan at Moreton-in-Marsh show in 2019, where they finished second.
“It made us realise that she might be worth investing in as a show horse,” Michelle added. “We paid our entry and trekked up here in my horsebox – which I’ve had for 24 years – but it was worth it: watching them win in that main ring was on another level.”
“I trust Reagan with my life, she’s helped me through so much and she’s so grateful for everything she gets. Emma transforms her into this lovely show horse, and I’m so thankful to her for giving up her time to ride her for me.”
“I put my big girl pants on”
A HOME-PRODUCED qualifier debutante and her horse of eight years clinched a ticket to the HOYS final. Nine-year-old Clydesdale Doura Oakley (Annie, pictured) and former nurse Catherine Hodge headed a quality field of ridden heavy horses.
“She was my first heavy and she sparked a complete obsession with them,” said Catherine, who now breeds under the Stanleyfields prefix. “At one point, I had 11 Clydesdales at home.”
Annie, a Doura Dovecote Expectation daughter out of Garff Callista, wasn’t always destined for a ridden career.
“After breeding her last foal I sent her away to be backed,” added Catherine, who has Annie’s four-year-old daughter, Stanleyfields Florence Nightingale, waiting in the wings. “She wasn’t the easiest and didn’t seem to like anyone else riding her, so I presumed she was always destined to be a broodmare. This time last year she was looking so well that I just couldn’t leave her as a field ornament.”
Annie then joined showjumpers Levi Critchlow and Hollie Davies for a stint.
“They have been the best support and helped get my confidence back,” Catherine said. “We’ve never looked back. I’ve done all the fun stuff with her and decided I’d put my big girl pants on and get on with it this year. It’s been the blind leading the blind but it seems to have worked. To qualify here, of all places, couldn’t be better.”
This report can also be read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale date 24 June 2021
You may also be interested in…