Saddle Hunters to the fore at HOY

It was the saddle hunters’ time to take centre stage at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show showing arena today, with the ponies getting the day’s action under way in cool conditions.

Cambridge’s Billie Roach (16) ended her final year in ponies on a high, sealing not one, but two titles – Small and Large Saddle Hunter Pony. Billie, who has ridden at the Horse of the Year Show for the past nine years, has won nearly every pony title on offer at the show, but to win today was extra special. “It’s the first time I have won both. It’s pretty exciting.”

Billie Roach and KS B-Witched, Small Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

Billie opened her winning account in the first title class guiding Melanie Triscott’s Kolbeach Rembrandt mare, KS B-Witched, to victory in the Small Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year (not exceeding 128cm). Melanie was thrilled Billie had picked up the win after riding the mare for three seasons. “I am really rapt for Bille. She has put so much work into her.”

Billie with Brookfields In Your Dreams, Large Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

Reserve went to 12-year-old Ruby Norton-Collins of Waimauku, aboard Kinkora Juliette.

Billie also overcame a quality field to take out the Large Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year, over 138cm and not exceeding 148cm, with her sister Chloe’s five-year-old mare Brookfields In Your Dreams. Billie admitted to having a few nervous moments while the prizewinners were being announced, wondering if she had pushed a little too hard. “The plan was always to go for the big gallop and I was struggling to pull her up at the end, but it paid off,” says Billie.

The win was made extra special as Brookfields In Your Dreams, or ‘Marmalade’ as she’s known at home, is the only pony Billie rides that the Roach family actually own.

Continuing their strong run of form, having finished runner-up in both the Working Hunter and Large Paced & Mannered Saddle Hunter of the Year, Brooke Bennett and Tirohanga Touch Wood were reserve.

In the Medium Saddle Hunter of the Year, over 128cm & not exceeding 138cm, the honours went to Christchurch’s Millie Harris riding Rachel Cooper of Hawarden’s Bellagio KV making their very first visit to the HOY show. 

Millie Harris and Bellagio KV, Medium Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

Bellagio KV was originally owned by Rachel’s late mum, Vicky Cooper; the pair had come north with hopes of maybe picking up the Rising Star, but to their surprise won both that title and the Medium Saddle Hunter Pony of the Year. “It came as quite a shock. At one stage we hadn’t even planned on doing the open. It’s amazing,” says Millie.

Reserve went to Ruby Norton-Collins and the lovely Ashbrook Bracken.

Next, it was the turn of the saddle hunter horses. Blessed by strong fields, the judges certainly had their work cut out, but they clearly couldn’t go past Surspence, ridden by Tauranga’s Cherie Weck, who took out both the Rising Star Saddle Hunter and Saddle Hunter of the Year titles.

Cherie, who has only recently returned to riding after 18 years, has only had the seven-year-old Surspence, bred by Kay Vercoe, under saddle for two seasons. Having finished runner-up in the Rising Star Saddle Hunter of the Year in 2019, going one better in that class is what she was aiming for – so to take the open title as well was completely unexpected. “I couldn’t be happier,” she says.

Cherie Weck and Surspence, Saddle Hunter of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

Reserve in the Rising Star Saddle Hunter of the Year went to Brittany Tilson on Princess Dell, while Hannah Burden on JHT Wheres Wally came through to take reserve in the Saddle Hunter Horse of the Year title class.

Hannah Burden and JHT Wheres Wally, reserve in Saddle Hunter Horse of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

Ashburton’s Dani Simpson capped off a great week winning the Paced & Mannered Saddle Hunter of the Year with Tracy Crossan’s Trevalda Mountain Storm, with Dannevirke’s Rebecca Aplin and Sherlock, reserve.  

Dani Simpson and Trevalda Mountain Storm, P&M Saddle Hunter of the Year (image: Annie Studholme)

In the day’s other action, the youngest of the showing fraternity saddled up in ring two for the Lead Rein and First Ridden titles.

Auckland’s Aliya Kirkwood (8) made it a clean sweep in the Lead Rein classes, winning the Lead Rein Pony Rider, Lead Rein Paced & Mannered and Lead Rein Pony of the Year titles aboard the lovely Taurimu Da Vince. Reserve in the Lead Rein Pony of the Year went to Kendall Hamilton on Rosedene Cover Girl, with eight-year-old Olive Cronin, all the way up from Temuka in South Canterbury, finishing reserve in both the Lead Rein Pony Rider and Lead Rein Paced & Mannered Pony of the Year title, riding Cedar Park Regal Man.

Lead-rein Pony of the Year, Taurimu Da Vince, with Aliya Kirkwood (image: Annie Studholme)
Olive Cronin and Cedar Park Regal Man, reserve in the lead-rein pony rider and P&M classes (image: Annie Studholme)

It was a tight tussle at the top of the First Ridden leaderboard . Having finished runner-up behind Ellie Entwisle on Linden Heavenly Music in the First Ridden Paced & Mannered Pony of the Year, Auckland’s Zaria Johnston reversed the tables to take out this year’s First Ridden Pony of the Year riding Merivale Park Opening Night. Ellie Entwisle had to settle for reserve. In the First Ridden Pony Rider of the Year, Piper Hayton on Linden Summer Tribute was awarded the title, with Ellie Entwisle again reserve.

Zaria Johnston and Merivale Park Opening Night, First Ridden of the Year (image: Annie Studhome)