Britain’s national eventing team and equine charity Redwings has been recognised along with several other leading lights from the horse industry at the Animal Health Trust’s UK Equestrian Awards.
An array of leading equine industry figures was welcomed by AHT’s long standing President Princess Anne, The Princess Royal on Tuesday night at The London Marriott Hotel on Grosvenor Square.
Britain’s eventing team of Nicola Wilson, Oliver Townend, Tina Cook and Rosalind Canter took out the AHT’s Eventing Award, after winning the country’s first European Championships team gold since 2009 at Strzegom in Poland in August. They finished 9.1 penalties clear of Germany, the defending champions; but the win was not so straightforward. After the dressage, the German team had been in gold medal position, but an impressive performance by the Brits in the cross-country earned them back the lead going into the final showjumping stage.
This year’s Dr Reginald Wooldridge Veterinary Achievement Award was bestowed on Anthony Stirk, whose career has been dedicated to improving the health and welfare of racing thoroughbreds. Stirk’s input has been fundamental to the success of the UK’s various racing authorities’ fatal and long-term injury programmes. He began collecting and computerizing fatality data with Weatherby’s in 1999 and subsequently introduced a parallel system for recording long-term injuries. By ensuring that data has been collected rigorously ever since, it has been possible to introduce practical solutions to enable racecourses and race planners to reduce risk on the basis of evidence rather than speculation. As a direct consequence, racing fatalities have been reduced by one-third in the last 20 years.
For its work speaking out on the disease strangles, Redwings Horse Sanctuary has been recognised with the SEIB Insurance Brokers Health And Welfare Award. Following the worst Strangles outbreak in 30 years, Redwings was motivated by its experience and launched the ‘Speak out on Strangles’ campaign in 2016. The ‘Speak out on Strangles’ survey aimed to better understand what horse owners know about strangles and what they currently do to protect their horse. This information can be used to give horse owners more confidence in managing risk and a better understanding of how to work through an outbreak situation. The survey attracted almost 5000 respondents and revealed that more than 90% of owners believed that Strangles should be more of a priority in the UK. Most importantly, the success of the campaign has begun to breakdown the stigma surrounding Strangles and developed a united approach to loosening the disease’s grip on horses.
A Special Award was made to Lady Harris for her tireless commitment to the health and welfare of animals. In 2014 she volunteered to chair the Committee for the awards ceremony, leading the event for a successful three years; in 2016 alone raising over £130,000 for the AHT.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the AHT, which has worked to improve the health and welfare of all equines, from elite competition horses to beloved family ponies. In particular, the Princess highlighted some of the charity’s greatest achievements – including the pioneering use of MRI for animals, huge steps forward in treating skin cancers in horses, and the Trust’s contribution to Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic teams in keeping their equine athletes safe and in the best form.
“We’d like to thank everyone who attended the evening, bid online for an auction lot, or sponsored one of our awards,” said Director of Fundraising Kevin Clements.
“You support is greatly appreciated – the dogs, cats and horses we help can’t thank you themselves, but we can! We look forward to the next 75 years in action.”
The event was also an essential fundraiser for the AHT to continue its work for benefit of dogs, cats and horses. Every penny of profit made or raised by the AHT is reinvested into their industry-leading science and care for animals.
Other 2017 winners:
Bet Solutions International Racing Award – racehorse trainer John Gosden
John started his career as assistant to champion trainer Sir Noel Murless and following that as assistant to Vincent O’Brien. John then moved to California and began training for himself, during which time he trained more than 500 winners. In 1989, John returned to England to train at the renowned Stanley House Stables. During his career he has trained more than 3000 winners in England, Europe and America, including Enable, the winner of the 2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just a few weeks ago.
Harvey Spack Field Dressage Award – Para Team Trainer Michel Assouline
Michel has been a fundamental part of the team’s success over the last 12 years. During this time Britain has been unbeaten on the international stage, winning an incredible 121 medals in total, including 64 gold, 44 silver and 13 bronze. Michel became the UK Para-Equestrian Dressage Team Coach in 2005 and has led Team GBR riders to win Team Gold medals at six European Championships, three World Equestrian Games and three Paralympic Games between 2005 and 2017. In Rio last year, the team returned with a total of seven gold and four silver medals in all their classes contested, which was a record breaking result for Britain’s para riders.
British Showjumping Award – Oliver Fletcher
Representing Great Britain at the Children’s European Championships in Samorin, Oliver won both Team Gold and Individual Bronze as a result of his superb performance across the championships. This year also Oliver also won a Children’s International Grand Prix in Wierden riding Dahar. Thanks to his remarkable consistency in over 1.5m classes, Oliver is the Leading Under 21 Rider in the British Showjumping leagues.
LGT Vestra Under 25 Star of the Future Award – Charlotte Fry
In 2016 Charlotte took up the opportunity of a life time to be based in the Netherlands with breeding stud and producers Van Olst Horses, and it has propelled her career to a new height. Her riding skill has evolved and she has been given some high-profile rides at prestigious competitions, where she has more than held her own against dressage’s top names. In August, she travelled to the World Breeding Championships in Ermelo with three horses for the Van Olsts including one of the sport’s most promising young stallions, Everdale. She won the Prix St Georges and finished second in the Inter I in the ‘Stallion of the Year’ section.