Holly Smith capped a brilliant day’s action at the Horse of the Year Show when she won The Thistledown Puissance with gentle giant Quality Old Joker. The Great Britain Nations Cup rider, competing in just her third puissance after previous appearances at Liverpool and Arena UK, cleared 2.20 metres (seven feet, three inches) in round five to take the £5,100 top prize.
Her four other challengers in the final round – joint runners-up Peter Smyth, James Smith, Joss Williams and 18-year-old Christopher Megahey – all came to grief – leaving Holly to celebrate a superb win in front of a capacity crowd at Birmingham’s NEC.
She only decided to enter the puissance on Thursday, but it proved to be a master-stroke, as the 18-hand bay stallion relished the occasion.
“He’s only eight, and I wasn’t going to enter him, but he nearly won the Foxhunter final earlier this week, so I decided after that to enter the puissance,” Holly said.
“I have never really had a horse before that I thought was capable of doing a puissance without frightening them.
“It was great to begin with, but the last round was very scary. The wall was massive for the final round, but luckily I have got a massive horse and I trust him implicitly.
“He is just such an honest horse. He is very intelligent – he is a pony stuck in a massive horse’s body. He is really athletic.
“The fourth round, I was a little bit quick, and he rubbed the wall, so I was just trying to make sure that I didn’t go so soon at it in the final round, and it worked.
“I don’t want to put him off it, so I won’t do hundreds of these events, but he is as honest as the day is long.”