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Horse of the Year Show 2019

An almost full house of 17 Arabians came forward on Friday 4 October at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), where Frances Atkinson assessed the conformation and Victoria Ayling judged the ride for the Simon Constable Equine Vets and Mr & Mrs Roberts Ridden Purebred Arab of the Year Championship. The atmosphere and intensity had been slowly building throughout the day and, when the full class walked round the arena together, a year’s worth of triumphs and tribulations came to its thrilling conclusion. There were plenty of horses experiencing their first HOYS, and plenty of incredible stories, from the incredible mother-daughter duo of Stephanie and Amelia Zebedee competing side by side to Kirsty and Natasha Nelson riding Len Morgan’s full sisters to be the only placed mares in the class.

Rafeekah. Credit 1st Class Images

Arguably the most inspiring story of them all had to come from this year’s champion, however. Two years ago, six-year old Rafeekah (Designed x Kaamelia) was an unbacked four-year old bought and produced by his young rider, Kimberley Bates, and her family. At only 20 years old herself, Kimberley’s kindness and talent both in and out of the ring have not gone unnoticed, and her debut season in the Arabian showing scene has been a highly successful one. Bred by Helen Cawley and proudly owned by Kerry Bates, Rafeekah went both Novice and Open Champion at the Midland Arab Group Show, Reserve HOYS Champion at Royal Cheshire, and then picked up his golden ticket in fine style at Stoneleigh Horse Show. Combining elegance and type while retaining correct conformation, Rafeekah also produced a mannerly and smooth show for the ride judge to earn 87 marks out of 100 and stand at the top of a very competitive line up. As well as the champion’s sash, rosettes, rug, and prize money, the combination also received the Elustarius Perpetual Trophy for the highest-placed gelding and the Arab Horse Society Perpetual Trophy for taking the class.

Rafeekah. Credit Sweet Photography

Two marks behind the champion were three horses all tied on exactly equal marks. All scoring an impressive 85 marks out of 100, the Reserve Champion was decided as Tracey Hately’s Cbeebies (Monther Al Nasser x FS Cinderella), ridden on this occasion by HOYS supremo Darren Crowe. This eight-year old grey gelding certainly impressed on the go-round, where his floating paces were shown off to their full extent. Bred by Mr C and Mrs J Lowe, 2019 marks Cbeebies’ highest HOYS place to date, having finished a respectable sixth in 2017.

Cbeebies. Credit Sweet Photography.

Finishing third was HOYS debutante Russian Design (Master Design x Yasmena), an 11-year old bred by Sue and Emrys Jones and owned by Karen Eggleston. Piloted by daughter Stephanie, this eye-catching and smart chestnut gelding gave an obedient and smooth ride that was duly rewarded. Russian Design is a true testament to the versatile nature of the breed as he is a champion both in-hand and under saddle. Having qualified this year at the Classic Show, this is a combination that will surely be back at HOYS in the years to come.

Russian Design. Credit Sweet Photography

Solitaire SR (Psy Dream x LTF Wings of Joy) stood fourth after showing off his gentility and charisma for both judges and his rider Sian Warman. Owned by Katie O’Brien and bred by Sally Roberts and Ryan Jones, this 11-year old grey gelding was a delight to watch and I wish him and his new show jockey, young rider Aaliyah, the best of luck in the coming years.

Solitaire SR. Credit 1st Class Images

One point behind the three-way tie was the 11-year old grey gelding PHA Devine Chance (Keyser Soze x Devine KT), who stood fifth with Stephanie Turner in the saddle. PHA Devine Chance is bred and owned by David and Jean Peck, and he gave a well-mannered show after impressing on the go-round. They took their ticket in good company at the SEAHG Summer Show and gave a good account of themselves here at the ultimate celebration of the horse.

PHA Devine Chance.

Sixth place was awarded to the athletic seven-year old chestnut gelding Venus Virtuoso (Marbon Mobago x LTF Neschima C) owned and ridden by Amanda Miller. Bred by Mrs M Steele, ‘Jerry’ qualified at the Royal Bath and West Show and finished second at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead in July. This combination finished on an impressive score of 83 out of 100 in Jerry’s debut year, just four marks behind the champions!

Venus Virtuoso. Credit 1st Class Images

Another horse in his debut year was eight-year old Alonzo (Abha Qatar x Casablanca Bint Djammal), who took both seventh place and the Cantsfield Perpetual Trophy for being the highest-placed stallion. Bred by Hugh and Michelle Segre and owned by Michelle, this young chestnut stallion has been carefully and lovingly produced by Stephanie Zebedee over the past couple of seasons. Although he lost balance slightly in his show, he was infallible on the go-round and scored very highly with the conformation judge. There is certainly an exciting future ahead for this young stallion! It had been a tough season for the experienced showing family, having come so close on multiple occasions to win a golden ticket, but their patience and resilience shone through as both Stephanie and teenage daughter Amelia collected their hard-won tickets at the British Arabian Championships in September. Although young Amelia’s ride Maya Johaara (Azteq x Jumainah) was unplaced on this occasion, the lady-like 10-year old mare gave a polished performance for owner/breeder Carolyn Kokta.


Eighth place and the recipient of the Beruga Perpetual Trophy for the highest-placed mare was Len Morgan’s 10-year old grey mare CS Lelisha (Krown x G Lilja). Ridden by Kirsty Nelson, CS Lelisha showed off her stunning paces, having taken her ticket at UKIAHS for the Meads showing team and breeders Mr A and Mrs J Davis.

CS Lelisha. Credit 1st Class Images

It was a family affair in the lineup as Kirsty’s wife, Natasha Nelson, expertly piloted ES Lelina (Krown x G Lilja), Lelisha’s nine-year old little sister to ninth place – despite a little excitement in the conformation section. Owned and bred by Len Morgan, ‘Nina’ gave a mannerly and comfortable looking ride, finishing on 79 marks out of 100. It truly was anyone’s class – there were only eight marks separating the top nine, and the remaining eight horses were by no means outclassed.

ES Lelina. Credit 1st Class Images

The class may have been over, and the audience’s attention may have swiftly turned to the judging of the Cuddy In-hand Championships, but for Kimberley Bates and Rafeekah, the HOYS experience had by no means ended. After a couple of days relaxing in the field at home, they returned to the NEC once more for the preliminary judging of the Supreme Products Supreme Horse of the Year Championship. Up against much older and bigger competition, Rafeekah was the final horse to complete his individual show for judges Tim Price and Terry Court. After watching the Supreme Pony preliminary judging, where the final pony was called in early for an unspecified reason, the large audience gave their full support to each and every rider in the horse section to show their appreciation for the combinations’ achievements and efforts. Soaking up the applause from the ridden heavy horse champion’s efforts – who sadly went mostly unnoticed by the judges – six-year old Rafeekah stood like a rock and swaggered into his individual show. Remaining cool under the most intense pressure, Kimberely gave the judges no excuse to disregard the youngest combination of the group and performed one of the only faultless displays of the section. Full of well-calculated risks, Rafeekah rose to the occasion and earned the rapturous applause of a grateful crowd – a true ambassador for the Arabian breed. Under the bright lights of the main arena, the Arabian Champion looked a real contender to be the first Purebred Arab to take the Supreme title in recent history. Although it wasn’t to be, and the Hunter champion Twinshock Warrior (Ricardo Z x Chilrea) took the coveted sash for showing legend Jayne Ross, Rafeekah looked at home stood among such top class company; in fact, they were stood right next to Cob Champion and previous HOYS and RIHS Supreme Our Cashel Blue with Alistair Hood! The future certainly looks bright for young Rafeekah and the young pair who ‘came from nowhere’ are living proof that rosettes are won at home.

Champion Ridden Purebred Arab of the Year – Rafeekah

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists, thank you to the sponsors, and good luck to all competitors, owners, and breeders next season.

Words – Katherine Bertram

Katherine Bertram
Katherine Bertram
Katherine Bertram is an English young rider who competes in a variety of different disciplines on her mother's homebred pure and part-bred Arabians. Having achieved advanced rider status in Endurance after her first season at age 14 on Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), Katherine turned her attention to showjumping with his progeny, at which she currently competes at Senior Newcomers (1.10). As well as also delving into showing, eventing and, occasionally, dressage, Katherine juggles her studies while attending the University of Birmingham.


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