A Fell stallion called the tune in the Blue Chip BSPS Heritage ridden mountain and moorland championship at Olympia on Monday (21 December), landing the coveted title from 38 rivals.
Becki Penny’s six-year-old Townend Schubert (Bert) was making his Olympia debut but impressed all four judges — Henrietta Knight and Len Bigley (conformation) and Rodger James and Martin Jones (ride) — to take the top honours. It was the first time a Fell has taken this sought-after accolade since Lunesdale Lucky Lady in 1992.
“It’s not quite sunk in yet,” Penny admitted on Tuesday 22. “It’s been 10 years since I rode a pony of my own at Olympia, so this is extra special. I’ve ridden everything from Highlands to Shetlands over the years and my previous best result was fourth.”
She spotted Bert as a foal and “instantly took to him”. Having bought him as an unbroken three-year-old, she left him to mature before sending him to Aimee Devane to be broken. He came out as a novice at five and, having done “just a handful” of shows, he stood supreme at the BSPS Winter Championships and was champion young pony at both the NPS and the BSPS Heritage finals.
“We brought him out in 2015 with the intention of testing the water in a few open classes,” said Penny. “Clearly, Bert had other plans! He stood champion at Suffolk County, which was not only his first attempt at an Olympia qualifier, but his first ever open. Coincidentally, one of the judges at Suffolk was Lizzie Briant, who rode Lunesdale Lucky Lady at Olympia!”
Bert also qualified for HOYS this year, and duly obliged by winning his section at HOYS, then rose to the occasion by storming to victory at Olympia. He scored an impressive 86 points out of 100 from the ride judges.
“What a Christmas present!” said Penny. “I plan just to continue to enjoy him now. It’s not often you get one with a temperament like his. He covered a few mares as a three-year-old before he came to me, but we have never used him as a stallion because we wanted to make sure he settled to his ridden job. But maybe he could have some ladies now!”
Reserve to Townend Schubert was the Welsh section D Ringside Gameover, a seven-year-old bay stallion ridden by Katie Williams, ahead of the Stanfords’ Highland stallion, Benbreac of Croila (Matt Cooper).
The other best of breeds were:
Welsh section A: Powys Sprite
Welsh section B: Cadlanvalley Sandpiper
Welsh section C: Menai Celtic Hero (fourth)
Connemara: Banks Timber
Dales: Trebarl Matthew
Dartmoor: Okeleat Navigator
Exmoor: Moonpenny Aquarius
Shetland and winner of the Heniarth junior M&M champion: Brinleyview Camanchee
New Forest: Applewitch Magister
Image: Townend Schubert ridden by Rebecca Penny by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the London International Horse Show at Olympia