Vanessa Way and her rising star NSC Pronto took out the Level 5 Horse of the Year today, making a clean sweep of their classes and winning the freestyle on 71.33%. Holly Leach and her starry six-year-old stallion HP Fresco were reserve champions, hot on Vanessa’s heels.
It wasn’t an easy win for Vanessa, who is suffering from a particularly nasty virus and had a dramatic gear malfunction in the warm-up when Pronto’s noseband snapped. Despite a glitchy flying change, their musical freestyle test was outstanding, with Pronto’s trot work particularly impressive.
However, the trot hasn’t always been Pronto’s strongest gait: when Vanessa bought him as a four-year-old it was rather flat and unimpressive. At that point he was scoring in the 50s and Vanessa laughs that she received ‘so many lovely insults’ about him in the early days, but she has proved the doubters wrong.
“The funny thing is we bought him because of his canter – he had the world’s worst trot and was so untalented at the Prelim levels as he was just so weak. He went from not having a trot to learning air-time overnight.”
Vanessa owns the horse in partnership with Josephine and Martin Dancy. They looked to buy a young horse in Europe but had bad luck when it came to vetting. “We just couldn’t find a horse and then I saw Pronto at Taupo, when he was still frisky and naughty,” says Vanessa. “The funny thing is I took a punt and the horse had been through several different professionals who didn’t rate him, but I really love him.”
Vanessa also won the Prix St Georges with her seemingly invincible NRM KH Arion, on 70.91%, with Melissa Galloway and Windermere J’Obei W second on 69.38%. Vanessa was very happy with ‘Ari’s’ performance, saying he felt confident, which was a more important priority than the win.
“He’s a funny little character – he was really petrified in here last year. I was just stroking his neck with my fingers in the test and I came out of the arena pleased with him.”
Canterbury’s Rebecca Rowlands and Solo are the Level 4 Horse of the Year champions after pulling off a flamboyant and harmonious freestyle. Rebecca and the 15.3hh gelding won the musical on 73.16% and the 4D on 69.41%. National Level 4 champions Gaylene Lennard and Jax Johnson were reserve, finishing second in both title classes.
Kellie Hamlett and Astek Geronimo won the Level 1 Horse of the Year, with Hannah Burden and the young mare Fanfare MH reserve. Penny Castle and the five-year-old Lord Alexis (Lingh II) won the hotly contested Level Two Horse of the Year with Kieryn Walton and Wisdom WDS Reserve.