Exmoor ponies win international titles in new sport of horse agility
By Katy Islip
13 January 2012 11:32
Nimble British ponies and their handlers have swept the board in the Horse Agility World Championships.
The International Horse Agility Club presented the titles to two British handlers and their Exmoor ponies after their agility, obedience and unflappable natures impressed the judges.
The worldwide OLHA! video league winner was Dawn Westcott of Exmoor, Somerset with her pure-bred Exmoor stallion, Hawkwell Versuvius, known affectionately as Bear. The pair triumphed over entries from 13 other countries, with Bear’s ability to work off the lead rope over a number of challenging obstacles, including hoop jumping and popping balloons, clinching the prize.
In the international competitions league championship, where competitors accumulate points through real-time competitions, was won by Susannah Muir, from Essex, with her pure-bred Exmoor pony, Threeshires Zanatan, known as Twiggy.
Susannah, who only took up horse agility at the start of 2011, said: “Twiggy was bolshy and sometimes aggressive around food, however horse agility has made her very easy to handle.
“Horse agility has taught me how to approach new things with a pony to ensure they are confident and don’t develop new issues.”
For Bear, horse agility fits in with his other roles as a champion showing stallion and as head of his herd at home on the moors, where he was born wild.
When she first started horse agility, Dawn said she wasn’t sure she could work a stallion totally loose over obstacles, but with patience and training Bear now takes everything from seesaws to plastic sheeting and fly curtains in his stride.
Another British pair also clinched reserve champion in the video league, although Deborah Pitts’ pony Pedro is originally from South America. Deborah brought him to the UK after rescuing him from the dockside where he was about to be shipped to the meat and pelt markets of Italy.
The sport of horse agility was inspired by its doggy counterpart, and has been designed to allow beginners to start off with their horses on the lead rein before progressing to loose work.
Obstacles are judged in two parts – up to five points are awarded for completing an obstacle according to the set criteria, and another five are available for good horsemanship. Entries in the video category are judged rigorously as they are open to public scrutiny too.
Sport founder Vanessa Bee has written a handbook on the discipline, and this year will see the introduction of higher levels where competitors work their horses loose over obstacles in open country, and also rider bareback and bridle-less over the same course.
For more information on the sport visit www.thehorseagilityclub.com