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HOYS 2016 Welsh Successes

The NEC Birmingham again became the ‘Equestrian Mecca’ for five days as it played host to the “World’s Most Famous Horse Show” with Wednesday recording a record attendance for an opening day. The first two days are cleverly packaged by Grandstand Media, organisers of this annual extravaganza, as Mountain and Moorland days and enthusiasts of the native breeds responded in unprecedented numbers.

Spectators were treated to competition of the highest order in the renamed Top Spec Arena where the program of judging flowed seamlessly over the five days where starting time is 7am and continues to 6pm.

The first of the native championships was for first ridden and lead rein ponies. These classes have been a real stronghold of the Welsh ever since they were started back in 1992 and 2016 proved no exception. Returning to retain the mini championship was the eight year old gelding Thistledown Van-der-Vaart again beautifully produced by Sharn Linney for his young rider Hannah Wilson. This son of Maestir Valient had manners to spare which struck an accord with judge Janice Parry who found no fault in his performance awarding him 50 out of 50. Coupled with a conformation score of 49, one short of maximum, made them the highest scoring horse or pony of the week. Second in this very competitive class was by contrast the very feminine cream mare, Woodend Marigold with another mare Thistledown Special Edition taking third place.

Libby Grota pulled out all the stops on the Debbie Thomas produced Glebedale Jubilee to top the first ridden class and take the section reserve.  Despite the mare only being four years old, the youth of the combination was not obvious in the electric environment, as they put in a performance rewarded with a score of 49. Section B ponies don’t always have their just rewards in this class but runner up on this occasion was Stockham Jeremy Fisher a ten year old gelding by Douthwaite Signwriter. Charlotte Kilbey has been getting a real tune out of her parent’s home bred Idyllic Spartacus in first ridden classes as the 2016 season progressed so it was no surprise to see her take third in the final with the eleven year old Spartacus himself by a previous Cuddy qualifier, Idyllic Entrepreneur.

The Cuddy In Hand Final shared the opening day proceedings with the mini and large breeds and if the attendance at the Top Spec Arena is a measure of the popularity of the competition then it still features highly within the showing fraternity. Started back in 1965 under the sponsorship of Fredericks Stables with nine qualifiers, which included two Welsh, Coed Coch Pelydrog and Coed Coch Anwyled, through various sponsorships it has now grown to twenty two qualifiers in 2016. The ‘Welsh’ had unprecedented representation accounting for 10 from an entry of 14 in the pony section; unusually, there were no Welsh Cobs through to the final in neither the horse nor pony sections.

Gaining the overall verdict of judges Mrs Liz Mansfield-Parnell and Robert Goldie was the section B, Moelgarnedd Stadros, appearing this season for the first time as a mature stallion since a very successful career as a youngster. Colin and Sarah Tibbey produced him for Birmingham in great order;it was a great testimony to his late breeder David Williams who had imported his dam, Weston Park Rose, from Australia. He had to work for his title  as he was pushed all the way by a very good Shetland with a riding pony brood mare third. The part-bred three year old gelding, Shildons Excalibur took fourth ahead of Paddock Rio and Idyllic Perdita. However one that attracted a lot of attention though obviously not entered, was Perdita’s colt foal by Heniarth Quinnell, who looked to be enjoying every minute of the party and certainly one to look for in yearling classes in 2017.

The ridden breed classes were judged over two days within the Top Spec Arena culminating in what is probably the outstanding championship of the week and takes place in the International Arena on Thursday evening. In the section C class two studs accounted for a third of the qualifiers with Popsters and Rivervalley having four apiece. Winning the class was the up to height twelve- year-old gelding, Tonlyn Tigger Two, who qualified at Midlands County show with owner rider Katie Brown, gaining Alan Robertson’s top ride mark of the class. Aimee Devane piloted the smaller Lynuck The Showman into runner up position receiving  Swedish judge Mrs Madeline Beckman’s top conformation mark of the class ahead of  the evergreen, Menai Thomas third and  last year’s winner, Glynwyn Living the Dream fourth.

Throughout the season the qualifying Welsh Cob classes have been the strongest so it was not surprising that the NEC final provided some of the toughest competition of the whole native section. Coming to the top was the seven year old stallion Renvarg the Mystic improving on his fourth placing last year. Then he was owned by the Cuddy Family who had bought him on the 2014 Brightwells Cob Sale for £14,600 from Lisa Wigglesworth who had campaigned him to great success including champion at Cheshire. In the interim the Cuddy family decided ridden mountain and moorland was not the road they would travel and he was offered back to his previous owner. It was a closely fought battle at the top with the top two tying on equal marks; second was Ashley Peers’ Pantydwr Mister Nice Guy who qualified at the season’s last qualifier at Moreton-in- Marsh and like the winner, was a graduate of the Brightwells sales. The ‘ride’ mark decided in favour of The Mystic with only one mark away in third place, the dun stallion Menai Euro Star.

Last year there was a tie on marks for the top three placings in the section A class which saw Powys Sprite relegated to third on account of having the lowest of the three  performance marks. This time he shared top performance mark and with having one more for conformation won by the smallest of margins. This Dutch bred stallion has been a tremendous ambassador for the breed under saddle brilliantly campaigned by owner/rider India Later. It was a veteran campaigner, Liz Russell’s Gartconnel Shooting Star, who was only the one mark adrift and at nineteen years young has certainly been there before and had the tee shirt. Ann Overton Ablitt has been a loyal supporter of the ridden classes therefore it was very encouraging for her to see her prefix in the shape of the ten year old stallion Colne Taboo take third. Again stallions dominated this class; twelve of the nineteen qualifiers were stallions and occupied the top six places.

It was a real feat of breeding for the Davies family at Cadlanvalley having four qualified for the section B class and all ending in the final placings. In 2014 Cadlanvalley Busby led as a five year old; now with a covering season behind him he returned and there was no doubt in the judges’ minds that he was the winner having him twelve marks clear of his nearest rival and a staggering twenty marks between him and the fourth placed pony. His dam, Stockham Domino, has been a tremendous matron at Cadlanvalley producing champion after champion including last year’s winner Cadlanvalley Sandpiper now sixteen but still managing to secure ninth place this time.

However a new face emerged to take second; this was Carolyn Cox’s five year old stallion Eyarth Braveheart who sired the winning yearling colt at the Royal Welsh a couple of months previously. Russetwood Elation, the sire of the winner also sired the third placed four year old gelding, Cadlanvalley Mikado, who looked to have the scope to have a very promising ridden career ahead of him. It was also encouraging to see smaller studs take some of the spoils; Karen Cheetham’s Carwood Stud was represented by Shimmering Gold to take fourth and Anne Holt was fifth with her homebred stallion, Musbury Consortium.

In the championship it was expected that the greatest challenge to the Welsh representatives would be from the Connemara and New Forest but Katie Marriot-Payne had Cadlanvalley Busby ‘singing’ in the International arena and the blip in its championship gallop two years previous was not repeated earning them the 2016 Ridden Mountain Pony of the Year with the Connemara reserve.

The newly introduced class for juniors had a mixed reception initially but the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and the class that came forward certainly suggested that with a few tweaks it was a class with merit and should stay. Seeing a class of small natives being ridden by children was most encouraging and it produced some very good performances from riders who ‘asked’ their mounts without the domination of the rider regularly witnessed  in the open classes.

Sixteen of the twenty four qualifiers were Welsh for the inaugural class and included the nine year old Dutch bred B gelding Lucifer bred by well-known section B enthusiast and photographer Theo ten Brinke. Winning was the cream section B gelding Laithehill Flute ably partnered by Kinvera Garner for owner Chloe Chubb. Still only five, the son of Laithehill Oberon, did all to be expected gaining performance judge Lorraine Partridge’s top mark. A Dartmoor pony filled second place followed in third by Birkinbrook Juliet, a nine year old section B mare by Heaton Romeo with Amelia Hayes on board qualifying at the first qualifier of the season back in April at NPS Spring Show.

David Cole’s working hunter pony courses are continually appreciated by competitors and spectators alike. His native pony course this year flowed like no other and any combination who could not keep a constant rhythm should have been made to pay the penalty. The 10 fence course which included both a one stride double and a two stride effort had many of the usual features. This year competitors faced the circular wall as fence two and the ‘hedges’ provided a one stride double as  fence 10 which proved very influential particularly in the two larger classes.

From an entry of 64 over the four classes 29 jumped clear with 12 of them coming from the 122cm class. This was won by the sixteen year old Welsh mountain gelding, Kyregate Peter Pan ridden by Ruby Ward gaining the top style mark from judge Mrs Liz Claxton.  Another section A mare, the ten year old Blackhill Imogen, took runner up position with the section B Annandale New Approach third.

Birkinbrook Cello led the 133cm class with a very impressive round which had a 19 out of 20 for style. The section C, Parkton Copper King, followed with another B, Hanmere Maverick, in third. All but one of the top nine places in this class were filled by Welsh either section B or C. The last fence proved to be influential in the 143cm class with half the field occurring faults here. Despite this, two combinations attracted a top style mark of 20; one of them, Ashley Bird with his Welsh cob Gwerniago Gethin, improved on his second place at the Royal International in July to win the class in super style. Last year’s winner, Peasedown Mr Muddle, was one of five clears in this class and ended fourth.

The over 143 cm class saw a reversal of breed dominance with the Connemara breed  taking all but one of the top nine places however Michaela Bowling riding  Vicky Eggleston’s Wealdstone Prince prevented a clean sweep with a stylish clear to take third. This is a class where the athleticism of the Irish breed comes into its own and Welsh cobs appear to struggle to gain the qualifying places as this time only four made it to the final. Despite Welsh animals winning three out of the four worker classes, it was always going to be difficult to take the championship from the in-form Connemara, but in the International arena all gave a very good account of themselves with Gwerniago Gethin being called forward into the reserve slot behind the Connemara.

In the equivalent working hunter section for plaited ponies the Welsh gave a very good account of themselves. In the opening class for 133cm ponies, Stambrook Messiah not only jumped clear but also topped the style and conformation marks. He comes from the very successful line of ponies bred by Sarah Rook which includes previous HOYS champions Stambrook Miss Bellini in 2014 and Stambrook Pavarotti in 1998. Another section B, Stockham Secret Envoy by Rotherwood Secret Agent was second with the section C, now with plaits in, Parkton Copper King, third. In the very competitive 153 cm class, Coombe Park Sailors Star, a fifteen year old chestnut part-bred gelding by Ffoslas Cardigan Bay was a creditable third.

Hunter ponies first made an appearance at HOYS in 1992 when Peter Thomas, son of doyen producers Ron and Debbie Thomas, won the championship on Towy Valley Jester. Since then additional classes have been added and now the show hunter pony competes in five height classes with a lead rein class for the younger competitors which involves negotiating a course of ‘obstacles’.

The Carmarthen based Thomas yard was again in the spotlight accounting for the 122cm class with Mrs Emma Edwards-Brady’s eight year old section B gelding Gryngallt Page Too which really fits the picture when plaited. Breeder Lesley Hillard has been very clever in breeding a type that suits this class to a tee. Page Too was again very ably ridden by Libby Grota who stole the hearts of the ringside and judges alike back in July with her ground devouring gallop in front of the Royal Welsh grandstand to take the supreme title. The pair won the class with ease and were later very worthy reserve champion show hunter pony.

In the lead rein equivalent Lesley Hillard’s breeding triumphed again when Gryngallt Picture Frame put in a superb performance with Eugenie Godfrey-Fausett aboard and very ably produced by the Holder Show Team. Both chestnuts are closely bred, Page Too being a full sister to Gryngallt Paris sire of Picture Frame. Section B ponies filled the top four places in a class that has truly established itself on the show circuit since being introduce in 2009.

Clive Morse was another Carmarthen breeder to record a win when Millwood Kaiser Chief by Laithehill Mustard Seed claimed the 133cm section in a class where interestingly two full brothers Parkhill Ronaldo and Parkhill Beckham were second and third. Their breeder, Mrs Sherrad, also bred a sister Jacanna in the class; all are registered part-breds with bloodlines tracing back to the best of Downland and Coed Coch on the dam side and Cusop on the top line.

Rotherwood Rainmaker must be one of the most consistent ridden show ponies on the circuit. This time not only did the nine year old son of Rotherwood Peter Pan recapture the 128cm show pony class but also on the final day added the Part-bred class for good measure. Winning the 138cm class in this section was another part-bred Archwood Romeo Gigle, by Rotherwood Gigollo and owned by the Glamorgan based Dalley family.

The mini show ponies came before Mrs Lorraine Partridge and the result in the lead rein could not have been closer with two ponies tying on a mark of 87. Wytchwood Love Potion had the verdict by the fact of having one mark better for its performance. Led by Craig Elinor and ridden by Cate Kerr, the six year old gelding is a grandson of the legendary Sandbourne Royal Ensign, a 128cm stallion who did much to change riding pony breeding before his export to Australia. The John Harvey produced Small-land Toy Soldier was second and with the closeness of the marks it was no surprise Mrs Partridge stayed with the lead reins for the section championship and reserve. Again the breeding is interesting, Toy Soldier being by Millwood Equador, a section B son of Laithehill Mustard Seed. The First Ridden class had an equally impressive line-up with several former HOYS mini champions including the part-breds Copybush Moonsprite, Barkway Precocious, Barkway Moonfairy and last year’s champion, Woodview Ianthe who was also champion in 2011.However all were eclipsed this time by Anndayse Sugar Plum another example of the excellent product that can be achieved with careful crossing of the British Riding Pony and Welsh.

The Coloured section is always popular and this year it marked the retirement of the piebald entire, Login Lucky Lad. Bought on the Brightwells Sales, he has since been a champion at both Royal Windsor and Royal International though the HOYS title has eluded him despite having now won his class three times in the last four years. Sadly the fairy-tale ending did not happen and the grandson of Gwendraeth Robert ap Frenin had to be content with a well-deserved reserve.

The SEIB Search for a Star competition is the amateurs’ own special championship and is run along the lines of a Masterclass with judges Robert and Claire Oliver accompanied by Katie Jerram giving both opinion and advice. Divided into six sections catering for all types of both horse and pony, this year two Welsh part-breds were at the top of the line. Kerran Brynn boasted 50% Welsh Cob through his dam Babylon Britannia and led the Riding Club Horse section while the 122cm hunter pony Green Syke Sonny Boy with Amelia Jeson aboard  was best of the hunter ponies becoming the judges’ choice for reserve to the winning hunter ahead of the rest of the field, all of which towered above it.  

The Harness Championship is always an interesting class to watch as when the judges have their finalists down to nine those unplaced leave the arena and the remaining nine drive-off for the places. Judges then call in one at a time starting with ninth until only two are left and a winner is pulled forward. This year there was little doubt that the pair of Gelderlanders were in a league of their own and deservedly were Mark Broadbent and Mrs Elizabeth Russell’s choice for the 2016 title. Best of the Welsh interest, gaining fifth was the Northern Ireland bred Brookeborough Reflection taking his name from his sire Thorneyside Reflection and driven by Andrew Hamilton-Rhodes who last took the title in 2013 with Brookeborough Duke. A very respectable sixth was the smallest animal forward, Cosford Izi Wotnot driven by Kelly Searle and this turnout looked the confidential private drive turnout of the class.

The International Arena also featured throughout the week the finals of the Harness Scurry and each round never failed to have the spectators on the edge of their seats. The final was close fought with 0.49 of a second the winning margin which gave Jemma Millman claim her sixth title since 2008. Competing under the pseudonym of Piglet and Eeyore, her pair registered as Rowfantina Hetty and Rowfantina Hocus Pocus gave section B ponies another major win.

It was noticeable that more and more breeders are attending, often supporting animals they had bred even though not personally involved with ridden showing. This annual end of season extravaganza is without question one of the best shop windows the breed has and witnessed by the depth of success it achieved over the duration of the show. The breed is marketed on the slogan “A Breed for All Occasions” and the successes at HOYS certainly gave credence to the statement.

Report by David Blair



22nd Nov 2016