Your Horse was at the Animal Health Trust Equestrian Awards last night, held at the world-famous Dorchester Hotel in London. After being greeted with a champagne reception, we were invited inside to find out which famous faces from the equestrian world would be leaving with an award.
Stars from every discipline filled the room, all eagerly waiting to discover who would be among this year’s winners.
Hosted by Nick Brooks-Ward and Zoey Bird, the evening featured awards from eight categories – Dressage, Eventing, Show jumping, Racing, Voluntary Service, Veterinary, the Animal Health Trust Special Award and the Under 25’s Star of the Future Award.
Playing on big screens, we were treated to a reminder of the impressive feats of the Olympic and Paralympic dressage riders at Rio this summer. After such spectacular success, the judges found it too difficult to split the two teams (Olympians Spencer Wilton, Fiona Bigwood, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester and Paralympians Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells), presenting them jointly with the Harvey Spack Field Dressage Award.
With such great success at Rio being remembered on the night, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine which rider would be awarded for their show jumping. Taking to the stage to accept his award, Nick Skelton’s thoughts weren’t too far from his Olympic partner, with the gold-medal winner saying: “I’m very grateful for what happened. I don’t think I could have done it without Big Star and everyone around him.”
One of the most poignant moments of the evening came in the form of the Voluntary Service award. The prize was awarded to Hannah Francis and her charity, Wilberry Wonder Pony. Hannah, a teenage event rider, launched the charity to raise funds for bone cancer research and to help those who are seriously ill achieve their equine dreams. In August this year, Hannah tragically lost her battle to cancer, aged only 18. Accepting the award, Hannah’s father James said “I have to say a big thank you to everyone who has got behind her charity and who helped her achieve so much of her bucket list.”
William Fox-Pitt took the prize for the eventing category – a field in which he faced competition from his very own Olympic ride, Chilli Morning. While he wasn’t there in person to accept the award, William’s achievements in the sport were recognised, with his impressive comeback from a coma in 2015 to riding at this year’s Olympics being celebrated.
Other winners included jockey Jim Crowley, under 25’s star Rebecca Edwards, vet John McEwen and Pete Brady, who was awarded the Animal Health Trust Special Award.
To find out more about the Animal Health Trust, visit www.aht.org.uk