Nottinghamshire’s Louise Saywell came to the party on a borrowed horse as she landed Saturday’s opening international class at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in Birmingham.
Saywell, who rode for Great Britain at the inaugural Nations Cup final in Barcelona, claimed a superb victory on 13-year-old stallion Peiter VI, which is owned and normally ridden by James Hughes.
Last-to-go in a five horse jump-off at the NEC, the combination took almost three seconds off Phillip Miller’s time with Sussex Carentino, who had to settle for the runners-up spot, while Belgium’s Jos Verlooy was third on Farfelu de la Pomme.
“I am just ecstatic,” Saywell said. “I’ve had a hard few days, with things not been going as they should, so to get this win has given me a confidence boost.
“I have won two national classes here, but this is my first international win here, and it feels amazing. It is such a good show to compete at – it is the one everyone wants to come to.
“When you don’t have a win or a good time, it puts you down, but this will give me a lot of confidence.
“On the first day, we did the warm-up class, which wasn’t great, then we had two down on Thursday afternoon, so I had no expectations that we would win this class. I just went in there and give it my best shot, and luckily it all came off.”
“He is really fast against the clock, and he has got all the experience. When you get on an older horse, they have their way of going, so it’s just finding out what works best for him. Going to the last fence, I thought this is either going to be hero or zero!”
Rachel Proudley got day four at HOYS off to a thrilling start with a memorable victory in the Barfoot-Saunt 50th Wedding Anniversary 128cms Championship.
Riding the 15-year-old skewbald mare Painted Lady IV — a surprise Christmas present for her three years ago — she had a captivated audience at Birmingham’s NEC on the edge of their seats.
Painted Lady’s quirky nature — she bucked after almost every fence in round one — made her a supremely popular winner, and 11-year-old Proudley, who is from the village of Kildale in North Yorkshire, could not have been happier.
“She is really naughty sometimes,” Proudley said. “She was bucking loads, so it was quite hard because she kept knocking herself out of her stride.
“She doesn’t buck all the time. I don’t why she was doing it today, I just think she was excited. You have just got to put up with it! You can’t really do anything about it in the ring.”
Nicole Lockhead Anderson made a nine-hour road journey from Aberdeen spectacularly worthwhile as she was crowned The Stable Company 138cms champion.
Lockhead Anderson, 14, won the same title last year on Sonas Barney — he was fifth on this occasion — and followed Darby Ward as only the second rider to win the class two years in succession.
A bumper Saturday morning crowd at the NEC revelled in a thrilling competition, which Lockhead Anderson clinched aboard 18-year-old pony Shappen Pilgrim with a jump-off time of 32.50 seconds after going last.
And Preston’s Robert Murphy added another title to his Horse of the Year Show collection when he won the Squibb Group Pony Foxhunter Championship.
The 15-year-old revealed that a telephone tip from Great Britain international rider Will Funnell during the jump-off had proved key.
Eventual runner-up Nicole Kershaw set a scorching pace with Miami Moonbeam, clocking 31.03 seconds, but Murphy edged inside it by 37 hundredths of a second after his round was highlighted by a brilliant turn on eight-year-old bay gelding Uncanny between the first and second fences.
Third place went to Oliver Fletcher, son of former international showjumper Graham Fletcher, who posted a time of 31.83 seconds with The Bobster.
Murphy was crowned leading pony showjumper of the year at HOYS in 2015, and his latest triumph proved another notable success on what is his last year of competitive pony riding.
“I am very pleased,” he said. “I haven’t had the pony for too long, so I am thrilled he has come so far with me.
“William Funnell rang my dad (Great Britain’s eventing squad showjumping coach Peter Murphy) and said the only way to beat Nicole was if I did that turn between fences one and two. She had set a very good time.”