Caithness pony takes working hunter championship title at the Horse of the Year Show
CHAMPAGNE was flowing for a local family at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) after their pony was crowned overall champion working hunter pony.
Coco Bongo, owned by Will Calder, and ridden by 13-year-old Chloe Lemieux, took the championship title after winning the National Pony Society (NPS) Snuggy Hoods 133cm Working Hunter Pony of the Year class today.
Drawn first to go, Coco Bongo, known by its stable name of Bluebell, was one of only four to jump a clear round over the difficult working hunter track. There were 22 ponies in the class.
The Welsh part-bred pony qualified for HOYS after winning the NPS 133cm working hunter pony class with Chloe at the Royal Highland Show in June.
Will Calder, of Scrabster Seafoods, streamed the class prize giving and the championship live on Facebook and the enthusiastic band of Caithness supporters can be heard cheering as the results are announced in reverse order.
Speaking from the NEC in Birmingham, Will said: "It is all a bit surreal at the moment. We are delighted, it's fantastic. We always had high hopes for the pony but this has exceeded them, giving us lots to look forward to."
It is all a bit surreal at the moment. We are delighted, it's fantastic.
He explained that it had been a chance ride for Chloe from Romsey, Hampshire, after his daughter, 10-year-old Jessica, had an unfortunate accident while in England en route to the BSPS winter championships at Grantham in April.
Will said: "It all came about when Jess fractured her wrist, we were already entered for the show, I just put a post on Facebook to see if anyone wanted the ride. Chloe was the only one to answer the call. Since then she has been doing the open classes on Bluebell and Jess has been doing the nursery ones."
Asked how Jess felt about her pony's win, Will said: "She was thrilled. She has a lot to look forward to with this pony now. Jess has another four years in this class."
It was indeed a dream come true for Chloe, as although she has ridden at HOYS before and been placed in the top three, she has never had a win at the prestigious show before, let alone a championship title.
Both riders qualified the pony for the Royal International Horse Show, at Hickstead in July, and both came home with a second in their respective working hunter classes. Jess and Bluebell won the nursery stakes championship at the Highland Show this year.
Meanwhile Emily Campbell, who rode a fantastic clear round on Thursday to pick up fifth place in the mountain and moorland 122cm working hunter pony of the year championship, was delighted with her HOYS debut.
The 11-year-old said: "I was both excited and nervous before I jumped. I cried when I got a clear round as it was a tough course with hundreds of people watching.
"Getting fifth was beyond my wildest dreams."
Emily qualified her pony Annandale New Approach, known as Roachy, at the National Pony Society Summer Championships at Malvern, Worcestershire.
Another Caithness rider doing well at the show on Thursday was James Munro who came fourth in the small show hunter of the year championship with Ebony King, owned by Freda Newton.