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Exmoor pony Bear is top of the world
Friday, 06 January 2012
Bear with Dawn Westcott (centre) and Vanessa Bee. Photo: Nick Westcott
A WEST Somerset-based Exmoor pony has been crowned a world champion after proving his prowess in a sport for which his breed is not renowned.
Hawkwell Vesuvius, a seven-year-old stallion owned by Nick and Dawn Westcott, of Luccombe, has won the 2011 Worldwide OLHA (Online Horse Agility) League.
And another Exmoor, Threeshires Zanatan owned by teacher Susannah Muir from East Anglia, has taken the top prize in the competition’s international league.
The battle for both prizes has lasted a year and involved competitors from 13 countries, including Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain.
Each month, competitors enter various ‘on-the-line’ and ‘at liberty’ horse agility classes where they pit their talents against horsemen and women from around the world.
They complete specifically set courses, which are filmed and judged by the Horse Agility Club to strict criteria.
Competitors progress through levels, from starter to advanced, depending on the number of points accumulated, with tasks including jumping through hoops, over barrels and navigating obstacles at different paces.
One course in December involved completing eight challenging obstacles within five minutes, with the horse loose and with no head collar.
Hawkwell Vesuvius, known as Bear, started at novice level at the beginning of the year, with him and Dawn steadily progressing to finally head the worldwide league by three points and secure the championship.
Dawn said that for two British Native ponies - and indeed Exmoor ponies - to take both championships was an outstanding achievement and a reflection of the breed’s intelligence and trainability.
“I’ve been astonished by Bear’s aptitude for this sport,” she said.
“He hasn’t been the easiest pony to train, being a moor-bred Exmoor stallion, but he has been been the most rewarding and fascinating.
“I’m looking forward to the coming season, where we’ve now reached advanced level.
“The Horse Agility Club is now looking at introducing a ridden agility level, where you have to ride with no tack - that will be interesting!”
The entire sport is based on building trust and partnership between horse and handler and Dawn said she could highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding and connecting with their horses.
“With the right approach and handling, Exmoor ponies can turn their hand to anything and have proved they are world beaters.”
Fellow champion Threeshires Zanatan, or Twiggy, also won praise from her owner: “I am so proud of Twiggy,” said Susannah.
“Exmoor ponies tend to suffer with a reputation of being stubborn and wild.
“However, this does not mean they are less of a pony than any other breed - they are unique and can do anything.
“They are honest, proud, willing ponies with character that can achieve the same, if not more, than others.”
More information on the horse agility challenges is available at www.thehorseagilityclub.com and from wwww.equinetourismcommunity.com.
All content © of West Somerset Free Press unless stated otherwise.
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