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Top rank triumph for saddle girl

By Jean Gunn

Isla Miller, Horse of the Year Show, HOYS, Stobilee Zac, Equestrianism
Isla Miller, Horse of the Year Show, HOYS, Stobilee Zac, Equestrianism

DREAMS came true for local rider Isla Miller after she took second place in the British ridden heavy horse championships at Horse of the Year Show with the six-year-old Clydesdale, Stobilee Zac.

They qualified for the show after coming first in their class at the Royal Cheshire Show in June. Getting her HOYS ticket was in itself a dream come true for Isla (née Bisset) who had been contesting the qualifiers with her Clydesdale since last year, travelling thousands of miles in the process with her sister Amy Gunn.

It was a very emotional moment for the Bisset family – who purchased Zac as a foal – when they watched as Isla was called forward to take reserve place at the NEC in Birmingham during their class last Thursday.

Unfortunately for the Kennedy/Coghill family it was a bitter disappointment when their qualifying pony went lame for the first time just before they were scheduled to make the trip down to the Midlands.

Nine-year-old Leoni Kennedy had qualified her 13-year-old, part-bred Welsh mare Popalbee Minnie Mouse for the first ridden championship after competing at the Scottish Horse Show in July.

Speaking shortly before they were due to leave for the show, Leoni's mum Lisa said: "Words can't describe how devastated we all are and how our dreams have been shattered so close to the show of a lifetime that meant so much to us – still very proud that Leoni and Minnie qualified for this prestigious show."

However, the extended family and friends continued with their plans to travel down to HOYS to support others and soak up the atmosphere.

Leoni was delighted to be awarded her finalist rosette when she arrived – a special keepsake for her.

Also taking part at HOYS for the first time was Karen Mowat, originally from Thurso, who now lives in the Black Isle.

The former Caithness Riding Club and Pony Club member qualified her eight-year-old Irish Draught gelding Ballerin The Conqueror (Rocky) after winning the heavyweight ridden hunter class at the Highland Show in June.

Karen's trip last week hung in the balance due to vehicle problems and she didn't know if she'd be able to go until the very last minute.

And to add to that Karen also had to find someone to drive, as her own driving is restricted due to a recent eye problem.

She said: "I was resigned not to go."

Karen, who is an admin manager for Scottish Government's Rural Payment and Inspection Division in Inverness, explained that she had never even been to watch at HOYS before so was unsure what to expect and didn't know how Rocky would react in that atmosphere, but said he was brilliant.

"The horse was amazing, he was lovely to ride – I just worked him too hard before so by the time the judge came to ride him he was flat," she said.

Although unplaced, Karen, who is also a BSPS judge, said: "I'm quite happy, it was definitely greenness on my part."

She added: "I did get a little flutter in my tummy as I rode through the purple curtain into the international arena.

"I am glad I did it. I always believed that the little bits of successes I had were because I worked hard at it. I went down there and my horse did not look out of place.

"It was pleasing to know that you can do that and do that on your own.

"A lot of that is because he is an easy horse. I am very lucky – I could have sold him for life-changing money, but no, he owes me nothing and I'm enjoying having him."

Due to the detached retina in Karen's right eye she has only made it to a handful of shows this year and joked that her preparation for HOYS involved trotting round a stubble field.

The Royal International Show at Hickstead was one of just four other shows the Munlochy-based rider got to this year.

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