From bowtop journeys to HOYS: one talented coloured mare’s unusual path to the top

  • Coloured mare Orcaber Bluebell, who was originally trained as a driving horse, has proven she is definitely not a one trick pony by excelling in her first full open show season.

    Gaynor Holgate’s home-bred vanner mare has hit the ground running this term, winning at a host of fixtures, including at the Royal International (RIHS) last month. She is also booked in to attend Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for the first time after winning at Stoneleigh Horse Show.

    Orcaber Bluebell, a seven-year-old, was bred by Gayle out of traditional mare Peaches by Friesian stallion Tiede Van De.

    Gayle, who runs a campsite in North Yorkshire, bought Bluebell’s sire from the Netherlands.

    “The intention was to do horse-drawn weddings, but due to circumstances I ended up putting him out with my traditional mares,” Gayle explains. “We bred horses for about four years and then post-pandemic the campsite really took off, so we sold the majority of the mares.”

    Gayle kept a few foals, including Bluebell and her brother, hogged cob Orcaber Phoenix, who finished second at this year’s RIHS final in his class under Vikki Smith. He is also heading to HOYS.

    A few years ago Gayle’s husband decided he wanted to drive a bowtop caravan to Appleby Horse Fair with their long-term traditional horse.

    “We needed a horse to run as a side-liner, and I thought Bluebell would be ideal,” says Gayle. “So, we began training her to go in harness while getting her fit. She took to it so well. We absolutely love heading out in the bowtop; the journey is lovely and so peaceful. We take our time and it’s a wonderful experience with the horses. We had to train Bluebell to tether up, too, something not all horses take to. However, when we practised in the garden it didn’t bother her in the slightest. The other horse she went with was super experienced and knew his job. Bluebell sidelined up to Appleby for two years on the trot.”

    In 2019, Bluebell also appeared on the BBC, taking viewers through the village of Clapham via cart.

    Bluebell, who had been started under-saddle by Gayle, began her partnership with her current producer Emma Burrow in 2021.

    “Emma has had horses for me previously and she jokingly asked me one day if I had a coloured for her at home,” Gayle explains. “I showed her Bluebell and she was taken with her. She’s been really successful, despite only being lightly shown. She’s excelled herself this season, winning the RIHS and qualifying for HOYS – a breeder’s dream really. She’s such a versatile, talented horse.

    “Emma has done an amazing job with her and they have a wonderful partnership.”

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