With the countdown to the 2017 RoR Awards night well underway the panel of judges are currently busy reviewing the credentials of the eleven candidates in the running for the prestigious award of RoR Horse of the Year. This week we highlight the final six nominations.

The 2017 RoR Awards take place on Monday 11th December, hosted by RoR Patron, Clare Balding. The event will once again be staged at the historic Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket, the home of horseracing. The final award on the night is the RoR Horse of the Year, sponsored by The Jockey Club, and won in 2016 by Monet’s Garden.

This year a long-list of contenders has been drawn up, each horse nominated from one of the eleven RoR regions. A panel comprising RoR Patron Sir Anthony McCoy, ITV Racing and At The Races presenter, Luke Harvey and RoR Chief Executive, Di Arbuthnot, is tasked with identifying three horses to go forward to the shortlist with the eventual winner announced on the night.

The eleven horses nominated for 2017 RoR Horse of the Year are:

Name                          Region             Horse details              Rider

Musical Legend        South East     9-y.o gelding             Zoe Gould

Chuckamental          Central           6-y.o gelding             Emma Lebutt

Danny John Boy      Northern        14-y.o gelding           Leanne Crawford

Maigold Rose            North East     10-y.o mare              Bethany Slinger

Right You Are           North West    17-y.o gelding           Charlotte Bowery

Blue Thor                   Scotland        11-y.o  gelding           Caroline Pennycook

Wild West                  East Mids      9-y.o gelding             Lizzie Harris

Mumaathel                Southern        14-y.o gelding           Gaelann East

Jive Master                South West   12-y.o gelding            Paige Smart

Beware Chalk Pit      East                13-y.o gelding            Rebecca Court

Buckingham Boys     Wales & Sev 15-y.o gelding            Clare Poole


Last week we reviewed the first five of the eleven horse (Muscial Legend, Chuckamental, Danny John Boy, Maigold Rose and Right You Are), this week we publish the background stories of the remaining six nominees, starting with the candidate from Scotland:

Blue Thor is 11-y.o and very versatile former point-to-pointer, who, together with rider Caroline Pennycook, has excelled at showing, including side-saddle, dressage and, this year in particular, at eventing.

In between competing in various other disciplines, he was won three event classes and secured a further five top six placings. As a result of his consistency, Blue Thor won the 2017 BE 90 Scotland points series and will be awarded the coveted ‘Ribbons and Tails Trophy’.

Caroline Pennycook says “I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have such an amazing horse. He shows me every day that he has more to give and wants to give it. He has an incredible presence coupled with an endless zest for life, and even though he never knows what he’s heading off to do on any given day, he will always makes his entrance down the ramp like a king!”

Wild West, a son of Galileo and maiden under rules, enjoyed his greatest triumph when crowned ROA and Goffs UK Supreme Champion at the 2017 RoR National Championships at Aintree.

Over the weekend at Aintree, he and rider Lizzie Harris competed in a jumping class and then various showing classes, including side-saddle, qualifying for the elite final on Sunday evening.

Lizzie Harris says: “There are no words for how I was feeling going into the evening performance. Westy performed beautifully, side-saddle, including leg yield, counter canter and simple changes. One judge said he was the straightest mover he had seen – I was beaming. To be crowned Supreme Champion literally took all words out of my mouth, it was a very emotional win. I think Westy’s favourite part was the reaction of the crowd and his lap of honour!!

“Since Aintree we have had some fun back hunting behind Pytchley hounds and leading the young racehorses over barrels. Westy has been the most amazing little orange pony I could ever have dreamt of owning! Having turned his hoof to almost everything Westy has proved that all shapes, sizes and colours can get to the top with enough heart.”

Mumaathel is a 14-y.o gelding by Alhaarth who since being taken on by Gaelann East in 2013 has found his niche in dressage. Thanks to the unique opportunities and competitions staged by RoR the combination have progressed from Intro to starting Elementary Dressage before moving through the Unaffiliated/Riding Club levels and onto Affiliated British Dressage.

At the 2017 RoR National Dressage Championships at Aintree the pair were League Prelim and Novice Champions, as well as runner-up in the classes for BD Prelim, Novice Showing and third in the Pairs Showing.

Gaelann East says: “In 2013 my confidence wasn’t great having had a few nasty falls, but the moment I sat on Alfie I knew straight away we would become life partners.

“2014 saw our first qualifications for the RoR BD Dressage Championships and we have qualified, competed and placed every year, moving our confidence up a level each year. The RoR clinics are an invaluable resource and a marvellous confidence boost where you can train and watch like-minded riders.”

Jive Master, an 12y.o gelding by Marignan, is a great example of patience and perseverance paying off with the outcome being a delighted owner rider and, against the odds, a former racehorse fulfilled and flourishing in a second career as a showjumper. His rider, Paige Smart picks up the tale:

“I knew when I brought ‘Paddy’ home I had my work cut out. He didn’t trust me and I was terrified of him. We spent our first year building a bond and working on improving Paddy’s weight and condition.

“We spent months trying to complete a course of 70cm fences. We had demolitions, refusals, run outs and some down right dirty stops…. We were generally eliminated by fence six, if I hadn’t already given up after a disastrous warm up! We were told by

numerous fellow competitors, organisers and instructors that I should give up on him as he would never be any good.

“But there was no way I was going to give up on Paddy, he was my pride and joy and eventually our hard work started paying off! Clears became double clears, 70cm classes became 90cm and 1metre classes and Paddy was bringing home rosettes from nearly all of our competitions!

“When we heard about the RoR League, we began jumping at British Showjumping Club competitions Paddy’s jumping was improving, and although there was only four months of the league remaining I hoped we could gain enough points to be placed. Imagine my delight when not only did we win the RoR Club League but also took second place in the 90cm and 1 metre Regional Club Leagues, competing against seasoned competitors!

“We had qualified to take part in the RoR Club League Finals held at the British

Showjumping National Championships at Stoneleigh Park, where Paddy came third in the Open Club and a very close second in the RoR Final! It was a dream come true and something that I had not thought possible!”

Beware Chalk Pit is a 13-y.o gelding by Anshan. A two-time winner under rules he has become best known for his exploits in the show-ring with his rider Rebecca Court, who shares him with Ann Leftley. Ann has owned ‘Pete’ since he was a three-year-old.

Rebecca Court says of ‘Pete: “His journey from Racehorse to Riding Horse was actually very straight forward, though this does not lessen his achievements.

He had immediate and consistent success; surpassing all expectation with the extent to which he adapted.

“In retraining him he has never said ‘no’, always risen to the occasion, always performed; he has an enthusiasm for life and for the job; he has been so rewarding to work with. He always has his ears pricked, looking forwards through the bridle with an outwardly happy disposition. I think he was almost born to be a show horse.

Rebecca and Pete’s highlights in RoR classes are being crowned champion at Hickstead and winners of the Elite Final and Supreme Champion at the 2016 RoR National Championships.

She says: “For 2017, I thought last seasons results couldn’t be topped and felt a

degree of pressure after doing the ‘RoR double’ last year, so I just set out to enjoy him. I needn’t have worried, Pete and I have had a brilliant year with eleven wins; the Tattersalls Special at Aintree and Burghley Horse Trials being highlights. Pete, this season, has been one of the most successful retrained racehorses to compete in open showing classes. As an Open Riding Horse he claimed HOYS Riding Horse Champion at New Forest Show 2016, RIHS Riding Horse champion at South Suffolk 2017, Reserve Champion HOYS Riding Horse at Wales and West, Reserve Supreme Amateur Riding Horse Champion at the Royal International. He has had a standout showing career across both classes over the past three years; being a great advert for the retrained racehorse.”

Buckingham Boys is a 15-y.o gelding by Terimon who won ran under rules and in point-to-points, losing his maiden tag on his final start. Off the course, under the care of Clare Poole, he has enjoyed a wonderfully versatile and successful second career competing in the show-ring, including side-saddle, as well as doing dressage, eventing and hunting.

As well as being versatile, Buckingham Boys is also remarkably consistent, winning classes year on year and taking Clare to Hickstead and HOYS, as well as all the RoR Championships.

Clare says: “So far in 2017 this legend of a horse has collected his RoR Tattersalls Ticket, his RoR Veteran Ticket, yet another HOYS Golden Ticket – this time winning the LWT Hunter Division at New Forest & Hampshire Show, attended Aintree National Show where he stood Goffs UK Reserve Champion Racehorse, attended the RoR National Championships with wins in each of his showing classes, 6th place in the Regional League Elementary Dressage Final, and 4th Place in the Veteran Final – all at a time where he was not quite feeling his best – ever wanting to please.

“To summarise – no matter the result – Buckingham Boys has been my Horse of the Year for the past 7 years and I hope for many years to come.”