Coco Bongo gallops to success
A CAITHNESS-owned pony has been crowned the Ruckleigh School Supreme Pony of the Year 2019 at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
On Sunday evening, the 10-year-old grey mare owned by Will Calder, of Scrabster Seafoods, and ridden by Chloe Lemieux, clinched the ultimate accolade in showing after thrilling the judges and spectators with two outstanding gallops.
Earlier in the week at HOYS Coco Bongo, known as Bluebell, won the 133cm National Pony Society (NPS) Snuggy Hoods 133cm Working Hunter Pony of the Year class after jumping a foot perfect clear round, and then went on to take the championship.
Speaking on the long road home from the NEC in Birmingham, Will said: "We are still pinching ourselves – it hasn't really sunk in yet. We can't believe it."
He added: "It was fantastic. What stood Bluebell out in her show was that they did two really big gallops – she really threw her cards on the table."
The judges, one from the hunting world and one a show jumper, were impressed by the way the pony was able to fully extend down the side of the arena and come back to a trot quite happily.
Will said: "I think that is what swung it for them. That is the type of pony she is – she can step up or step down when needed. She is a pretty reliable pony – she does not have many poles down.
"I think it is the first time a working hunter has ever won the supreme pony. They have set a precedent there."
Commenting on the fact that Bluebell's breeding is marked as unknown in her passport, he said: "We are kind of hoping we can find out a bit more. We can trace her back to a four-year-old."
It was the icing on the cake for Will's daughter Jessica who was celebrating her 11th birthday at HOYS on Sunday. Jessica keeps up Bluebell's jump training at home with Team Skelton, at Dale Farm, where the pony is based.
"It is a team effort all round," Will said.
Jessica's grandparents William and Fiona Calder also made the journey down to Birmingham and they were "absolutely thrilled" to see the pony crowned supreme.
It has been a hectic time for the Calder family, who have been involved in the horse world locally for many years and have always wanted to go to HOYS.
They have been interviewed for articles in numerous publications, including the Horse and Hound, Showing World and Equestrian Life magazine.
When asked if there were any plans for a party to celebrate the amazing achievement once back home, Will said: "I think we will have to do something. We have already had a few bottles of champagne."
As previously reported it was a chance ride for Chloe from Romsey, Hampshire, after Jessica fractured her wrist earlier in the year and a plea for another rider was put on Facebook.
Since then Chloe, who is a member of the England international working hunter pony team, has ridden in the open classes with the pony and Jessica has taken part in the nursery stakes.
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.
Chloe and Coco Bongo qualified for the NPS Snuggy Hoods 133cm Working Hunter Pony of the Year championship at HOYS after a win at the Royal Highland Show in June.