Several leading equestrians and equines from the present day and earlier have been inducted into the British Horse Society’s Hall of Fame.
Thanks to Britain’s Olympic successes, this year’s recipients were among the largest intake since the Hall of Fame was launched in 2005. They were welcomed during a ceremony at the Household Cavalry’s Knightsbridge barracks on Wednesday.
Showjumping Team Gold medallist Ben Maher, Team and Individual Dressage Olympic Champion Charlotte Dujardin, and three-time Paralympic Gold medallist Sophie Christiansen were amongst the names chosen to join the prestigious roll of honour this year. They were joined by one of the equine heroes from the Games, Mistral Horjis, who won Team Gold and Individual Bronze in Dressage with his rider Laura Bechtolsheimer.
Two shining lights from yesteryear were also recognised – Vin Toulson, a gifted horseman and one of the greats from the world of showing, and Pretty Polly, a prolific show pony from the 1950s.
This year’s stars join Lucinda Green, Carl Hester, Nick Skelton, Sefton, Milton and Over to You in the list of equestrian greats.
The selections are made by a panel comprising existing laureates which this year is chaired by BHS Chief Executive Lynn Petersen and comprises Liz Edgar, Mary Gordon-Watson, Carl Hester, Lucinda Green and Horse and Hound Editor Lucy Higginson.
Plaques to commemorate all laureates in the Hall of Fame are displayed on the wall of the Household Cavalry’s barracks on South Carriage Drive, Knightsbridge, West London by kind permission of the Commanding Officer.
BHS Hall of Fame Citations 2012:
Ben’s talent was clear from a young age as he came up through the Showjumping squads, representing his country in Pony, Junior and Young Rider European Championships. He won Team Gold medals on three occasions before making his Senior Championship team debut for Great Britain at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing with Rolette.
Since then Ben has gone on to represent Great Britain at two European Championships, the most recent being in 2011 in Madrid where he played a major role in securing Team Bronze.
Ben has been part of the British team at numerous Nations Cups and has amassed an enviable record in international competition, not least as leading rider at Olympia in 2011. He also achieved a memorable double at Hickstead in 2005 winning both the Derby and the Speed Derby.
In 2012 Ben achieved the ultimate accolade, representing his country at an Olympic Games on home turf on a horse that he had bred and produced himself. Ben has worked with Tripple X III right from his first tentative steps, shaping him into the top-class performer that he has become. At Greenwich the talent of horse and rider was showcased to the world as they helped Britain to win its first Showjumping Team Gold medal in 60 years.
Remarkably it is less than two years since Charlotte took part in her first Grand Prix class in January 2011, which she won with a record debut score of 74 percent.
Charlotte started her riding career at a young age, beginning in showing where she achieved much success, winning at Horse of the Year Show four times and Hickstead three times. However, her true calling lay in Dressage, and in 2007 she began working with one of Britain’s top dressage riders, Carl Hester.
Mentor and rider formed the perfect combination and considerable success followed for Charlotte. Her performances caught the eye, first with her self-produced horse Fernandez and then Valegro, who she has taken from young horse classes, right through to the exceptional heights they have now achieved.
Charlotte’s first senior appearance came at the European Championships in 2011 where she and Valegro helped Britain secure Team Gold – the first in history. She arrived at the 2012 Olympic Games as one of the favourites for Gold and true to form, in the first round set a new Olympic Record of 83.784 percent. Her performance, together with that of Carl and Laura Bechtolsheimer, secured Britain’s first Olympic medal in Dressage – a Gold.
Two days later the eyes of the whole nation were on Charlotte and Valegro as they performed their freestyle routine to music which included Land of Hope and Glory, The Great Escape and the chimes of Big Ben. The pair won the Individual Gold medal with a score of 90.089 percent.
Pretty Polly was by far the greatest show pony of her generation, the likes of which are seen few and far between. Described as a ‘perfectly made’ pony, she was a 14hh chestnut mare bred in CountyMeath. Her sire, Naseel, was an Arab stallion and she was out of a Welsh mare, Gypsy Gold.
As a four-year-old Pretty Polly won the Pony Championship at the Dublin Horse Show and the following year she went on to take the R S Summerhays Cup for Pony of the Year at The Horse of the Year Show from 34 entries.
She retained the title in 1951 and was champion pony at the Royal Show and the International Horse Show for the next three years. Unfortunately, she could not be shown at the Horse of the Year Show again after 1951 because a rule was introduced (although soon discarded) barring the previous year’s champions from competing.
Hailing from an exceptional family of show ponies, Pretty Polly went on to create an impressive dynasty of her own. She bred eleven foals, nine of which became champions. The Pretty Polly lines were later crossed with the famous Bwlch strain (stemming from the celebrated stallion Bwlch Valentino) creating a formidable line of show ponies.
A star that lit up the ring, her name lives on in the Pretty Polly Championship at the Royal International Horse Show.
Vin was a highly respected horseman and a much loved character, both in the showring and beyond. He amassed an incredible record of successes, including seven Wembley Show Hunter of the Year titles, and later became renowned for breeding top-class hunters.
Racing was always Vin’s first love and by the time he left school at 16 his ambition was to become a jockey. He began race riding and one of his early rides, a manic hard puller called Panhandle, inadvertently changed the course of his life. Panhandle belonged to a top lady rider who would become his wife.
Mrs Daphne Toulson’s equestrian CV was impeccable and when she and Vin joined forces in business, the result was formidable. Together they set up a dealing yard with the aim of producing top class horses from the Gartree Stud near Melton Mowbray. Their head girl, Jean Andrew joined with them, and the Toulson team mounted a war-like campaign on the showing scene.
Princes Street, a dark brown heavyweight was their first headlining success, unbeaten in 20 championships. Assurance, Elite, Seabrook and Sporting Prince followed as Show Hunters of the Year. During his career, Vin won every hunter class and every championship at every major show – except the Royal Cornwall, simply because he never went there.
Mistral Horjis, or Alf as he is known at home, has become one of the greatest Dressage horses that we have had the pleasure to witness in this country.
Bought by the Bechtolsheimer family as a nine-year-old from Denmark, the distinctive chestnut gelding was not always straightforward. Very extravagant and extremely gifted he was also quite explosive in his early days. Laura worked hard to contain his talents, and together they formed an exceptional partnership.
Alf and Laura were instrumental in the success of the British Team at the 2009 European Dressage Championships at Windsor where they won Individual Bronze in the Grand Prix Special and the team took Silver – the first time Britain had beaten Germany in dressage history. From there the team progressed to Silver at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, with two Individual Silver medals for Alf and Laura, and finally that coveted Gold in the team competition at last year’s European Championships.
A horse that wears his heart on his sleeve, Alf has always endeared himself to Dressage fans across the globe, but none more so when giving his absolute all during a moving freestyle performance at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Performing to music from the Lion King, Alf and Laura put in a sensational display to add Individual Bronze to the Team Gold medal they had helped secure earlier in the week. At 17 years of age, he was as good as ever.
Alf has been the King of the dressage arena for many years and truly deserves this recognition.
From a young age it was clear that Sophie had a natural aptitude for being in the saddle. A school trip to a local RDA centre inspired her to start riding aged six and from there she never looked back.
Sophie’s first major international competition came ten years later at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, where, riding Hotstuff, she won an Individual Bronze medal.
Having had a taste for this success, Sophie’s appetite was whetted and in 2008 with Lambrusco III she won her first Paralympic Gold medals taking Team and Individual Freestyle titles and Individual Silver. Later that year Sophie received the Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy – which is awarded to the most promising rider under 25 in eventing, dressage and showjumping. She was also awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year Honours List for services to disabled sport
In 2009 Sophie added Team Gold, Individual Gold and Individual Freestyle Silver at the European Championships to her achievements and followed this up in 2010 with Team Gold, Individual Gold and Individual Freestyle Silver at the World Equestrian Games with Rivaldo of Berkeley.
Sophie’s finest moment, however, came this summer at the London 2012 Paralympics. Carrying the expectations of the nation on her shoulders she rode Janeiro 6 to win a total of three Gold medals. Sophie’s evident joy at her success could not fail to warm the hearts of those who witnessed her remarkable performances.