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‘Emotional’ reunion of top jumping pony with former rider 14 years later

A 30-year-old former showjumping pony with a “heart of a lion” has had a happy reunion with her former owner.

Beth Mantel, 28, from Hampshire was given the ride on New Forest mare Polly at the Pony of the Year Show in 2001.

“She had double clears every day at the show,” Beth told H&H.

“I went home and my nan and granddad, Janet and Reg Mantel, bought her for me as a surprise. I had always had hand-me-down ponies so to get my own was amazing.”

Beth enjoyed much success with Polly, including qualifying for the 138cm class final at Hickstead, until she grew out of her, and the pony was sold in 2004.

“She was only 13.1hh at a push but she had the heart of a lion. We did so much together, her record was mostly unbeaten. I remember a class where the third round reached 1.25m – the fences were massive compared to her but she was always as careful as a cat. We got on amazingly although my nan was the only one who could ever catch her,” said Beth.

“I was absolutely gutted when we had to sell her but I was so tall, I had to kick my heels up going over jumps so I didn’t catch them. At the time I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t keep her.”

Polly returned to Beth briefly before she was sold to Stirlingshire-based Joanne Fairbrother in December 2005, for Joanne’s sons Andy and Ben.

“She pulled her check ligament four months later and I sobbed,” Joanne told H&H.

“We ended up putting her in foal to the prolific 128cm jumping stallion Tiny Tim and she had her foal, Poppy, in 2006.”

The Fairbrothers brought Polly back into work and she enjoyed further success with Ben including winning team gold for the Scottish under-10 team at Netley Hall in 2013 and appearances at the Pony of the Year Show, before she retired from jumping aged 24.

Ben and Polly

“Over her career she had 150 wins,” said Joanne. “We decided to retire her while sound rather than risk an injury.

“She is very much queen of the yard and a real character. My mother Yvonne adores her and sometimes is the only one she’ll let catch her.”

Joanne and Beth kept in touch over the years and after a reunion in 2017, Beth flew to Scotland to visit Polly on 6 January.

“I was so happy to see Polly, she recognised me instantly,” said Beth. “She was the loveliest pony but she wasn’t an easy ride, she either loved you or hated you – but we always just clicked.

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“She looks absolutely amazing for her age. It’s always sad saying saying goodbye, wondering if it could be the last time I see her but I hope it won’t be.”

Joanne added it was “emotional” reunion.

“Beth and Polly had a wonderful time together over the years, as did Andy and Ben with Polly. She was a real winning pony, and incredibly careful. We are very privileged to own her.”

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