Cool, calm but devastatingly quick, Tabitha Kyle lifted both 128cm and 138cm titles on Coreys Princess and Playboy Van De Zoetewei for a double Horse of the Year Show victory in some style – and she is still only aged 12.
To add further distinction to this rare achievement, she won on two ponies she has produced herself from four-year-olds.
The 138cm jump-off was hot with 10 of the 24 starters coming forward for round two with three riders claiming two ponies apiece – Elissa Herrmann, Noora von Bulow and Rachel Proudley. But it turned out to be a tussle between Rachel and Tabitha – much the same as it has been for the majority of the summer.
Rachel set a sizzling time on the feisty Buttons Two for everyone to chase. And it piled on the pressure. Tabitha – who had nine ponies qualified for five championships here at her third consecutive HOYS – nonetheless appeared unaffected. She already had the 128cm title under her belt and set off in determined style on the ultra-careful, super-quick Playboy.
She made up the time early on with tight lines at a relentless but controlled gallop, punching the air in delight as she glanced up at the clock.
“He galloped and turned and came back to me when I asked, he was amazing,” said Tabitha, who nonetheless could still spot a line where she could have improved – “I got a duff stride to the last but one and had to wait for the seven strides to the last [vertical].”
It was quick enough. Tabitha wiped an incredible 1.69 sec off Rachel’s seemingly unbeatable target.
“Rachel set a very good time but I was determined,” said Tabitha, who has enjoyed an incredible year with Playboy, winner of the Royal International 138cm title at Hickstead, Scope 138cm championship, National 138cm title and Bolesworth 138cm grand prix. And now HOYS. Some record!
The Belgian-bred eight-year-old was purchased unseen from a video five years ago with Tabitha starting to ride him as a four-year-old.
“He was very sharp and scared but he has got a lot friendlier. He can still be nervous around strangers and bright lights but once he’s in the ring he forgets all about it and concentrates,” she said.
Rachel settled for second on Buttons and sixth with the steadiest of the double clears aboard the promising Icaris W. Charlotte Bevan slotted Rathcoona James into third with Noora von Bulow in fourth on Sonas Barney and Aimee Jones took fifth riding In The Moment.
Tabitha was equally fast in the 128cm as six of the original 17 competitors returned to tackle the jump-off. But Tabitha held all the aces and won from the front, her competent deceptively quick round on Coreys Princess taking the win by 1.87 sec.
“She’s good at galloping and she did everything I wanted her to,” said Tabitha, who dismisses any pressure of the big occasion – “I act like it is a normal show although it was odd going first in the jump-off, I prefer to go mid-draw then I can watch a few go and still put the pressure on the rest.”
This win is special to Tabitha, now in her final 128cm year.
“I’ve grown up with these ponies in these classes, they’ve taught me and I’ve taught them.”
Coreys Princess is another bought as a young pony and came from Ireland as a four-year-old, but there was a surprise ‘Buy one, Get one free’ in store.
“She had a coloured foal – we didn’t know she was in-foal – and he’s now a four-year-old 128cm called Special Offer and he’s been jumping discovery and 80cm classes this summer,” explained Tabitha.
Noora von Bulow rode Sparkel into second place with Sophie Wicks and Camizion in third. Emily Irvine posted the steadiest of the double clears for fourth on Bunbury Conquest with Millie Lawson’s Prestwood Hardy taking fifth and Lucy Bowen-Howard finished sixth on Toorboy Tommy.
Text and Photos © Jumping Around