The NAF Five Star bronze league final went to Katie Robinson and Mervs Thanks A Million II, a mare who “hates everyone” except her rider, on the first day of Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).
Katie and the 13-year-old won by almost eight seconds, from Jake Jones on White Well Augusta Rio, with Louise McDonald and Fanta-astic third.
“It is a dream come true,” said Katie. “Every year I come and watch but I had never had the chance to compete here before so this is my year. I was very nervous, but I felt like a winner just getting here and my parents were so proud of me.
“I know my horse is very careful so I just went for it in the jump-off – I’d rather come out with a pole down and know that without that I’d have won than just go for clear – and it is an amazing feeling to win, it’s an experience everyone should have.”
Katie added of Andrea Robinson’s mare: “She’s very difficult. She hates everyone, but she loves me, and that’s the main thing!”
A 3am start today was worth every yawn for Gemma Hallet, who took the NAF Five Star silver league on Billy Jive.
The pair took just over half a second off the time set by Stephanie Gunn and Jagerbomb, with Imogen Yule and Blonde Ambition finishing third.
Gemma and Billy Jive won this title in 2020, when HOYS was cancelled owing to Covid and the national finals were held at Aintree International Equestrian Centre, but luck was not on their side at the NEC last year.
“She’s a bit of a live wire and she didn’t settle last year, with all the background noise and lighting, and wound herself right up,” Gemma said. “So this year we decided to get up very early in the morning instead.
“There are not many things I get up at 3am for, but this was well worth it,” Gemma said, adding that although she and Billy Jive have won the title before. “This occasion is so big – it’s what everyone dreams of.”
The combination have enjoyed superb consistency, with more than 20 wins in a year.
“I saw Stephanie go first, and she went quick, so the consensus was to have a go and if we had a pole down, we had a pole down,” Gemma said.
“I am lucky with the horse in that I completely trust her, and we very rarely have a pole unless I completely mess something up. She tries so hard. She has been so consistent and won so many classes, and to win here feels like we have achieved our goal.”
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Credit: Stephanie Bateman
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