“I am forever grateful to him for making all my dreams come true,” said the owner of her horse of a lifetime, who she fell in love with on holiday in Spain, and went on to achieve some incredible accolades together.

The now 18-year-old Diamanté Del Rey (Mr D) went from trekking in Andalucía, to competing in showing at The London International Horse Show, and has also been shortlisted and received prestigious awards along the way.

Virginia Draper first fell in love with Mr D on a trekking tip with Los Olivillos, a riding retreat in the Andalucían mountains. She returned several times and grew a strong bond with the PRE Fusion stallion.

“Los Olivillos could see our connection and after many riding holidays together he came to live with me in England when he was 12 years old; my dream of having my own horse came true,” she told Your Horse.

Since then the pair have gone from strength-to-strength, taking on hacking challenges, competing in British Dressage competitions and showing to great success. They have also participated in Iberian Demos, representing the Iberian Horse.

“Mr D loves attention and we compete in Foreign Breeds, Veterans and Concours d’Elegance showing,” Virginia said. “Last year I learnt to tow a trailer and we have had the most amazing showing year I could ever wish for, and lots of fun on our adventures together; with seven Championship titles from our summer show season, and Best of the Best Supreme Champion at H.O.P.E Show.”

London International Horse Show magic

Virginia joined the Senior Showing and Dressage League (SSADL) with big ambitions. To qualify for The London International Horse Show, a partnership must be placed champion at specified shows. The pair entered an agricultural show to secure their first-round qualification, and then entered two shows for the second round, where the pair secured the coveted champion position.

“My mum drove a six hour round trip to watch proudly, with lovely showing friends cheering us on,” said Virginia. “Both the tears and bucks fizz flowed.”

The road to ExCelL was, literally, tough, after a week of snow and ice, travelling to the capital was a challenge for Virginia.

“I had to secure a gritting company to help me get safely off my yard,” she explained.

But the trip was well worth it, with Virginia and Mr D enjoying every moment.

“Walking into the arena I saw Jeff the retired Yard Manager from Los Olivillos in Spain sat watching on the front row,” Virginia said. “He surprised me by coming to watch with my friends, which added to the emotions of the day, when the results were announced I was so proud to finish 10th place.”

Fairytale story

To add to celebrations, that same season Virginia received a call from the Veteran Horse Society to tell her that Mr D was in the top six horses shortlisted for the SEIB British Showing World, VHS Veteran Horse of the Year Award. Out of hundreds of veteran horses nominated from across the UK he was the only Iberian, and only foreign breed, to be in the final six for this national award.

“It was such an honour for him to be chosen,” said Virginia. “My Mum and I attended the SEIB British Showing Awards at Stoneleigh, with the Veteran Horse Society. We also attended the VHS Gala Ball in November and received the UK Reserve Champion Performance Horse of the Year award.

“I feel very proud of our journey together, he is my horse of a lifetime, Diamanté Del Rey translates as the King of Diamonds but he’s the King of my heart too; and I am forever grateful to him for making all my dreams come true.”

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