In The Saddle column: Having fun at the British Appaloosa breed shows

It’s been super busy here preparing for the two British Appaloosa Society breed shows with our young Appaloosa ‘Haverlands Sully Fire’.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 7:59 am

Sully has been shown in-hand at the British Appaloosa Society (BApS) breed shows since he was a yearling where he’s continued to entertain the crowds with his leaping about every year.

This year promised to be even more of a celebration following the cancelling of the 2020 show due to COVID-19 and the society reaching its milestone 45th year anniversary.

We usually attend the Northern breed show, which for the last few times has been held at the wonderful site of Bishop Burton college. It’s a beautiful venue and it feels very special to be a part of the show.

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Anita and Haverlands Sully Fire at the Northern British Appaloosa Society breed show.

This year the BApS council put on another well organised breed show. In fact it was so good we were left in a real quandary - do we take Sully for the first time to the Nationals down South?

In the end we figured we would make the three and a half hour journey with him. We felt he’s five years old, more mature (allegedly) and travels well. We felt he would cope with the journey.

Well cope he did. Me on the other hand? Put it this way, I think my horse coped far better with the journey than I did. After adding on a further hour onto our route by returning home for my boots (and nearly causing a divorce in the car) we were off. Again.

I wasn’t a fan of the motorway traffic slowing down and there were quite a few delays which meant we were at standstill for some, but Sully took it all in his stride. I had travelled down with all my haylage nets hung up and he happily munched away thinking all his Christmases had come at once.

Once we arrived the excitement and nerves arrived but Sully wasn’t fazed by his new environment. He was situated next to Mitzi (his unrequited love from previous shows) so he was more than happy.

We had a lovely evening meal with the society; giving us the chance to meet up with friends I’d only known through social media and, of course, the opportunity to catch up with old ones too (big shout out to the Geordie gang). My husband even did karaoke - much to the embarrassment of our twelve year old daughter.

Earlier in the year Sully and I had enjoyed them Northern British Appaloosa Society breed show coming home with a stack of rosettes. It was his first year here as a ridden horse so I was super proud.

Going to the nationals is a much bigger as there must have been around seventy horses easily (if not more) competing on the day. In one of his in hand classes there were fourteen I believe, so I was super proud of fourth place.

Such strong classes brings out some incredible beauties. Everyone looked fabulous and their horses to boot. I was just pleased if I stayed on. That was my main aim of the day. You never know how a youngster will go in big rings with huge classes.

Sully was his usual lively in-hand self and outside waiting for the classes. So much so I wondered if I should ride him, but with friends by my side there was no time to debate. They literally shoved me in the saddle for the concours d’elegance class. I was up and over his back before I had time to blink. The best way for nerves I think.

I absolutely love the concours class. I’ve always admired the competitors right from when he was a yearling. I remember the ladies going in looking magnificent on their steeds and their flowing skirts as they trotted. It’s mesmerising to see and so elegant. I never thought I’d go and do it on Sully as it’s the stuff of dreams, literally the stuff of dreams, but I did.

At the Northern we came second place and at the Nationals we got a third place. Absolutely fantastic. I think I cried a little when they passed me the rosettes at the shows. I’d had a number of falls from Sully earlier in the year where I shattered my confidence from an injury he’d gained from a fall into a ditch.

He’d had treatment but the fear of the falls stayed fresh in my mind. So - staying on, riding round in that beautiful arena with all those magnificent horses was even more special to me.

I met some fabulous people from those classes. Real inspirational women. They were all so lovely and one in particular helped keep me calm. I have to say a personal thank you to the wonderful Rachel Leyland who checked I was OK the whole time I was in the ring. She did the very same at the Nationals too. I don’t think she has any idea how much that helped ground me.

Building up to this class I’ve had my daughter, Alyssia, help my young horse to ‘take’ the skirt. It’s not for all horses, but Sully really is a special little guy.

He had only been ridden a few months when we started training him with it in lockdown. One friend in particular encouraged me to practice daily and motivated me to ride in it, despite his young age and being new to riding. You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

At the same time, I also joined a great Facebook page for concours (thanks Laura Watts for your help there) where Sarah Wood, the coordinator, challenged me to ride in the breed class and promised me a surprise if I did.

Well I did, and I told her after and sent her a photo. Sarah makes rosettes for a living and sent me the most beautiful ribbon for courage and a letter that I shall keep forever. I’ve never met her, but wow…woman encouraging women is something to be proud of. Thank you Sarah; it’s up in my kitchen.

There are so many kind people out there who help others by inspiring them and giving them the courage they need to believe in themselves. Trust me, I know. I’ve also experienced so much encouragement from friends and family too. You all help. At the show itself I was wavering about riding and my lovely geordie show buddy gave me just the chat I needed. Thank you Heather. I’ll be there for you too when you ride baby Elmo next year.

My horse trainer, Harriette, always pushes me and believes in Sully although sometimes I do swear at her when she says ‘now do that again but better’. She’s the lady I sent him to so he could be ridden away. She’s excellent and I highly recommend her. I have such a great support network who only want the best for Sully and I. I’m very, very lucky.

My poor breeder is constantly updated with our antics. Sorry Paula, I can’t help myself. I just need to share every moment with you. I’m a bit like your personal stalker. I do try not to photograph every minute with Sully but it’s a hard habit to break.

At the nationals, Sully went on to come third in Ultra Novice Ridden out of a strong class of about twelve I think. Again, it was mind blowing. To think at the beginning of the year I felt like I wasn’t good enough for him. We were now here riding at the Nationals - with a smile on our faces.

Sully went into the Novice Ridden class with my friend Ellen Webster. Ellen helped me back him at home (before he was sent to Harriette’s) and has a very special relationship with him. They did a fabulous show and came first. Unbelievably they went through to the Evening Performance Championships. It was fantastic. My heart was bursting with pride. Ellen, seriously, huge thanks to you. You’ve been here for all my ‘firsts’ with Sully and its wonderful memories we are making together.

Whilst they weren’t placed they did a brilliant show; despite him being so shattered. Thank you Ellie Twiggs who kindly loaned Ellen all her evening performance wear for the ring as we hadn’t thought he would qualify so didn’t bring anything. What an incredibly kind lady she was but, as I’m learning fast, the equestrian Appaloosa world is full of these great people.

It seems if you have an Appaloosa-you instantly have friends. It’s the world’s most friendliest show and I highly recommend the society as the best society for Appaloosa owners. The council works super hard at these events (and the judges) and by god are they creating memories for us all. We are very grateful.

Finally, last but certainly not least, is the thank you to my friend I met through the society when Sully was just a foal Kirsty Blythe and her lovely husband Danny. They let my daughter do her first Appaloosa Junior Handler class with their lovely, calm and beautiful mare ‘Mitzi’.

Alyssia thoroughly loved her junior class and came home with a gorgeous rosette. Also, thank you for helping me strip off for my next class (changing outfits super quick) and lunging Sully in the morning. I don’t know where I’d be without you all grabbing skirts, canes and gloves off me.

I know my husband isn’t horsey, but he’s kind of got lumbered with my daughter and I having horses at home. He had to move house for a bigger equestrian property for our horses and is constantly pestered for an arena twenty four seven (when are we having it by the way?). All I can say is come and join us…a fourth horse to muck out isn’t much more to the gang. Get yourself in the saddle. If you can’t beat us, join us.

If you would like to follow our horsey escapades then please follow me on Facebook on In The Saddle - Anita Marsh. Or you can add me on Twitter, but bear in mind I’m a total technophobe and don’t know how to use it on @inthesaddleblog.

Don’t expect to read about a professional rider. I’m just a middle-aged, menopausal woman living out her dreams in the saddle with her three horses at home. Usually ending up in precarious positions, always doubting herself but never losing faith in her equines.

Until next time, stay safe and have fun riding.