"It was the most difficult Cuddy I've ever judged," reported top show producer Robert Oliver on judging the supreme in-hand championship at the Royal Bath & West Show.
Seventeen champions came forward for Mr Oliver's close inspection in the Preliminary judging before moving to the main arena to make his final decision. After seeing his champions trot up a final request was given to see the champion of Hunter Breeding and champion of Riding Horse Breeding trot up again before giving the final nod to the two-year-old small riding horse, Kellythorpe Moulin Rouge, with the reserve slot going to the three-year-old hunter, It's a Family Affair.
On his champions Mr Oliver said: "I pulled six forward and they were all super animals. They all performed equally and I just felt in the end the riding horse was very correct, gave a beautiful show and was well turned out. So was the hunter – it was the closest Cuddy I had to decide on and it's just the decision you make. It was a very hard choice."
It's A Family Affair, last year's Three Shows Challenge winner, was enjoying his second championship win after taking the in-hand hunter title at Devon County Show for his owners Tony Wareham and Caroline Burrington. "We're delighted as Caroline is not at all well and so we were really hoping for a good result for her," said Tony's partner, Ann Bassett, who was at the ringside watching the home-bred Leander gelding.
On the Cuddy she said: "We nearly got there but it's always such a lottery. What's more important to me is that you can be champion of your own section, that's what it is all about."
Equally as happy was Caroline. Speaking from her Devon base she said. "I'm over the moon. He's carrying his own very consistently this season and we'll just have to wait and see if he can make it three at Royal Cornwall...and maybe get the Cuddy there too!" Caroline also saw her two-year-old Kingsmaster gelding, Kings Speech, who she part owns with Cathy Wood, win his section. "It was a 100% strike rate. I'm more than happy with that."
Kathryn Pitt's part bred Arab stallion, Chycoose Troubadour proved he can successfully juggle his stud duties with showing after taking the in-hand championship and ridden title with Lucy Boden.
"It's amazing especially when you have bred the horse yourself," said a delighted Kathryn who made the trip up from Redruth in Cornwall. "I've ridden his dam and still own her which makes it even more special."
On the stallion's performance, she said: "He just seems to be getting better and better. He is exceptional – he has a lovely temperament and is so well behaved – I could not ask for a better stallion."
The five-year-old bay by Strinesdale Matador was broken as a four-year-old and took the ridden and in-hand title at the NPS Summer championships last year before standing Supreme champion at the NPS Autumn festival. He has already qualified for the RIHS which will be his next outing.
Another familiar face in the Cuddy ring was Julian Walters and his smart little black Shetland mare, Schivas Kerry. The eight-year-old by Hose Marshal was celebrating her fourth county show win on the trot. Julian and his partner David Hodge, of the well-known Halstock and Blackertor Shetland Pony Studs, Okehampton, also netted the reserve championship in the popular miniature division with the home-bred grey stallion Halstock Claret.
Molly Simpson led the beautiful Highland mare, Holmedown Chicago, to stand at the top of the line-up for the second year running in her section. The eight-year-old, owned and bred by Wendy Bridges of Exeter, is by Johnsondene out of Holmedown Cobweb. She went champion ridden at Devon County and stood second in-hand to the Queen's Highland, Balmoral Erica which went on to take the Cuddy. "She's not been out much since she went to HOYS last year and finished second," said Molly. "We'll campaign for HOYS qualifiers again and aim to get that elusive Olympia ticket as this will be her last year under saddle before having babies."
Celebrating their fourth NPS M&M lead rein/first ridden championship in a row at the show was Joyce and Jacky Newbery of the Newoak Stud, Exeter. "We've won for the past four years with a home-bred which is very special," said Jacky who watched her Dartmoor, Newoak Designer Edition stand at the top of the line up with his four-year-old jockey Amelia Lockhart. "We'll try for a fifth!"
The BSPS lead rein/first ridden championship went to Chloe Allen riding the grey Cusop Dimension mare, Cornashton Sky Wishes while Jordan Pooley and Baylew St Patrick, winners of the First Ridden, took reserve.
In the RIHS show hunter ponies qualifier Debbie Thomas' Chiddock Big Ben took top honours with Katie Roberts while Plymouth jockey Tierney McKinnon took reserve riding, Yealand Breeze.
In the Working Hunter Ponies Sarah Gould continued her winning ways with her chestnut mare Get Set II to take the championship after winning the Intermediate section.
The popular NPS M&M Working Hunter Pony classes saw another home-bred victory for John and Maggie Carter of the Millcroft Welsh Pony Stud, Dawlish. Their Welsh section B liver chestnut stallion Millcroft Iska Roc by Millcroft Ghost took the championship for the second year running with his jockey Sam Roberts after winning the 138cm section.