Records were broken, historical law changes announced, and the UK started to unlock again, with equestrian sport providing plenty of spine-tingling moments and owners and riders finally able to fully enjoy their horses again. Take a look back at some of the standout moments of the year that was 2021…
1 First female Grand National winner
Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore became the first ever woman to win the Grand National when she was first past the post riding Minella Times at Aintree in April.
2 Remembering the Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died in April aged 99. He was one of the top British polo players in the 1980s and excelled in four-in-hand driving. The Duke was president of the FEI from 1964 to 1986, and is largely credited for creating the sport of combined driving.
3 A landmark day for animal cruelty
Longer prison sentences for animal cruelty came into effect in England and Wales. People found guilty now face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland — a big rise from the former six-month limit.
4 Green light from the Government
This one is so simple, yet arguably the most special part of 2021: the freedom to attend our horses at our leisure, meeting our riding friends and just generally get out and about enjoying our horses without having to worry about breaking government rules.
We had to wait until June for all restrictions to be lifted, just in time for a summer of fun.
5 Farewell to a much-loved giant
Big Jake, the world’s tallest living horse at 20.2hh, died at the age of 20. The much-loved giant lived in America and was certified in 2010 as measured 210.19cm to his withers.
6 Mounted police patrols for road safety
Data from the BHS about road incidents involving horses led to more mounted police patrols around the UK. The effectiveness of these patrols showed that reporting all incidents and near misses to the BHS is not only essential, but leads to action to help make roads safer.
7 A deer went hacking
8 ‘Bronze laced in gold’ for Dujardin
The world was won over by Charlotte Dujardin’s loveable chestnut gelding Gio in Japan. Despite lacking experience at the higher levels, he helped Britain land individual and team bronze, alongside Carl Hester (En Vogue) and Lottie Fry (Everdale).
The trio reunited — along with Tokyo travelling reserve Gareth Hughes (Sinato van Hof Olympia) — and secured team silver at the Europeans in Haden, Germany, with Charlotte and Gio also winning freestyle bronze.
9 British eventers set a new Olympic record
After a 49-year drought, Britain’s event riders came home Olympic champions following heroic performances by Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class), Tom McEwen and Laura Collett (London 52).
Tom also took individual silver riding Toledo De Kerser.
10 Brilliant Ben clinches showjumping gold
Ben Maher and his valiant chestnut Explosion W cinched individual gold by a tiny 17 hundredths of a second in a nail-biting jump-off at the Tokyo Olympics.
11 Golden run continues for Britain’s para riders
Sir Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells rode to a seventh Paralympic team gold in Tokyo.
Lee added a further two golds to his tally on his homebred Breezer — in the grade II individual and freestyle — reaffirming his place as the most decorated equestrian Paralympian of all time.
Lee was later awarded a rare honorary patronage to British Dressage.
12 Two Shires hack to Scotland
Jamie Alcock and his Shire horses Millie and Willam set off from Gloucestershire and arrived in Morayshire, Scotland, some 650 miles away less than three months later.
13 A new five-star — and a marriage proposal
In the absence of a CCI5* horse trials on British soil, following the cancellation of both Badminton and Burghley, a new fixture was arranged at Bicton in Devon at lightning speed.
Gemma Tattersall cinched the top spot — a career best for her — and her boyfriend proposed during the winner’s press conference. She said yes!
14 A legend retires
Andrew Nicholson announced his retirement from top-level eventing at Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in September. The six-time Olympian said he will focus on producing horses to two- or three-star level.
15 British Whitewash at the eventing Europeans
An all-female British squad went to the FEI European Eventing Championships in Avenches, Switzerland, and they brought home every single medal available, including a 23rd team gold for Britain.
16 Owner of obese horse prosecuted
The owner of a Hackney cross described by a vet as “grossly overweight” was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering. The horse, John, lost over 25% of his bodyweight after arriving at Redwings.
17 Historic change for modern pentathlon
Following concerns for the welfare of horses in the modern pentathlon at Tokyo 2020, a decision by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne led to the announcement that showjumping will no longer be a part of the sport following the 2024 Games in Paris.
18 Five SEIB champions crowned at Your Horse Live
A new SEIB Search for a Star M&M champion was found in Simone Harrison and her Welsh section D Wishaw Red Admiral. A further four Search for a Star finals — all new for 2020 — meant five sashes and trophies were awarded in total.
19 Trailer towing test scrapped
Trailer towing tests ceased on 20 September shortly after the government announced that drivers who passed their car test after 1 January 1997 will no longer need to pass a separate test in order to tow a trailer or caravan with a maximum authorised mass of up to 3,500kg.