WITH a magical display of horsemanship, Robert Walker claimed his fourth British Horse Society supreme ridden horse championship at the Royal International Horse Show.
Riding Jill Day’s winning lightweight and champion hunter View Point, a horse he describes as “the horse of a lifetime”, the Cheshire rider and producer pulled out of the bag a brilliant performance to earn 29 marks from judges, Sue Bunn, Martin Clunes and Michael Maryan.
On any other day, that score would have been good enough to clinch the Winston Churchill Trophy outright, but fellow Cheshire rider Danielle Heath equalled that score riding the champion hack Forgelands Hyde Park.
It took a thrilling ‘ride off’ to decide the winner, with the judges giving the nod to Walker and View Point, named ‘Sean’ at home as a tribute to his breeder, Sean Jones from Co Clare.
“It was game on from the minute he entered that arena and this horse answered every question. He has amazing natural movement, self-carriage and paces. That is something you cannot teach and he does it effortlessly on a halter. He gave me everything today,” said Walker.
An 11-year-old by Loughahoe Guy, View Point is the reigning hunter of the year. He remains unbeaten this season and includes the supreme hunter championship at Royal Windsor in his highlights.
Also carrying Irish hopes into the ridden horse supreme was Justine Armstrong-Small riding the winning heavyweight and champion cob Horton’s Magnifico who was bought from Julie Marchant four years ago.
Also contesting the supreme horse championship were the winning heavyweight and working hunter champions Noble Gladiator and Ellie Hirst. Originally brought out by Kelly Ward, sister of Ireland based Louise Lyons, this upstanding Dunkerrin Leader 11-year-old was bought by Ellie six years ago and he also successfully combines ladies’ classes.
While the 2021 champions Mia Donaldson riding the winning 148cm and champion show pony Wilderness Early Bird carried off the pony supreme (28 points), they were run close by Zara Brookes and the winning 15hh and champion show hunter pony Merrycorner Mister Bui (aka Buttons/26 points).
Traditionally bred by Louise Duffy, Buttons is by Templebready Fear Bui and he was originally brought out as a small hunter by PJ Casey at Dublin, winning at RDS in 2016.
Also coming into the supreme reckoning and popping a sneaky fence in their performance were the working hunter champions Ruby Ward and the 143cm winner Noble Ronan.
Bred by Patrick Traynor, Ronan is by the Connemara stallion Murphys Oscar. The seven-year-old strawberry roan gelding has had a fantastic season starting off with a championship at Royal Windsor.
The BSPS M&M champion Aniar Cashel also put up a great supreme performance. The Banks Timber nine-year-old stallion, bred by Joe Burke was again ridden to perfection by his owner Sandra Burton, who had little time to celebrate their championship win earlier in the week.
“We have a milk round in Lancashire and we had to drive straight home, arriving 5am, just in time to start our round,” said Sandra, who also rode Banks Timber for Joe Burke, the pair taking this same M&M championship in 2016.
Over six days of top-class showing, an encouraging number of Irish-owned and/or -bred horses were in the ribbons with the Emerald Isle recording numerous winners.
While there were no Irish winners among the coloured ranks on the opening day, Irish eyes were certainly smiling in the south of England as Val Sheehan, a former native of Kanturk sourced the reserve coloured supreme Red Rock (Janay Atherden), cob winner Borace For Short (Vicky Smith) and the amateur coloured champion Red Warrior (Roanna Hamilton).
Irish breeding was well to the fore in the open hunter ranks, in addition to the supreme ridden horse View Point heading his lightweight class, finishing next to him was Sarah-Ann Gunn’s Kilcarna Brilliant ridden by Will Morton.
The Brilliant Lad seven-year-old was bred by Christopher Whelan out of his Irish Sport Horse mare Kilcarna Lady. Coincidentally, Kilcarna Brilliant was previously produced by Robert Walker who originally spotted him with Dessie Gibson.
Heading the middleweight section was Liz Prowting’s ever impressive Bloomfield Eloquence, ridden to perfection again by Alice Homer.
The Watermill Swatch eight-year-old is a former Balmoral and Tattersalls champion for Jane Bradbury and he earned dual qualification to the middleweight and ladies’ finals at HOYS last October.
Standing top of the heavyweight division and taking the reserve hunter accolade for Jayne Ross was Rose Bailey’s Twinshock Warrior, a 10-year-old son of Ramiro B.
Irish horses also found the amateur ranks a happy hunting ground and it was the 2017 reserve supreme at Dublin, Glenkeeran Dance In The Deep, who took the amateur hunter tricolour after heading his lightweight section.
The Crosstown Dancer nine-year-old has amassed an enviable number of championships this term including the amateur hunter title at Royal Windsor. The second-placed lightweight, Amy Cook’s Mr Darcy Dancer, also by Crosstown Dancer, took the reserve.
Vicky Tennant headed the middleweight division with Bloomfield Bespoke.
The Future Trend 10-year-old was originally purchased at Goresbridge and stood champion at Balmoral for Jane Bradbury before Vicky bought him from Daphne Tierney four years ago.
Standing top of the heavyweight division and taking the reserve supreme amateur title was Sarah Tait, riding her Je T’Aime Flamenco nine-year-old Ringwood The Specialist.
Katie Dashwood took the amateur riding horse tricolour, riding the very much in-form Minella Rebellion. The former racehorse was bred at the Sunnyhill Stud in Kildare and is a 10-year-old by King’s Theatre.
Standing amateur reserve was Imogen Keene riding Ballinameesda, a Sylvano seven-year-old bred by Jane Bradbury.
The maxi cob class was brimming with Irish cobs including the top three: Elizabeth Bury’s Lord Alexander, Debbie Harrod’s Bohera Durrow Fred and Caroline Mackness’ Country Seat. In addition, the first, third and fifth, Ruth Parker’s Correl Wood all came out of Galway and were sourced by Reid Finlay.
In the open ranks, the lightweight winner Randalstown Rolex ultimately took the reserve (to Horton’s Magnifico) for Nicola McConville, and Clare Blaskey’s Horton’s Happy Go Lucky took the amateur cob tricolour.
It proved happy Hickstead hunting for IPS member Ned Kelly who took third and fourth in the 133cm and 143cm working hunter pony finals riding Tinnecarrig Milo and Rowdown Archer. Both ponies were qualified at the IPS Spring Show.