Amy teams up with Whitaker for Olympia win

Amy Roberts and Robert Whitaker walk the course at Olympia before their great victory.
Amy Roberts and Robert Whitaker walk the course at Olympia before their great victory.

Young up-and-coming Annaghmore showjumper Amy Roberts has won a prestigious event at London’s Olympia pre-Christmas International Horse Show – in partnership with champion horseman Robert Whitaker.

Amy (12), a member of the Iveagh Pony Club, took the J J Pony Club Mini-Major event on her pony Billy Two Rivers, partnered by Whitaker on his mount UB One.

The format is that the experienced rider jumps the course, judged on faults, followed by the young rider who is judged on time, with fences down counting as time faults.

Robert rode a faultless round and Amy clocked up a time of 20.39 seconds, without rattling any fences. They were the first of the eight pairs to compete, threw down the gauntlet to the test, and won through.

The principle is to pair young riders with the ‘greats’, with the likes of Robert Smith, William Funnell and Billy Twomey teaming up with the young talent, in front of thousands of spectators in the annual event.

Two youngsters are chosen from each of the four UK countries, and Cerys Howell from North Down Pony Club was the other NI choice. She finished fifth, having knocked two poles down.

Said Amy, “Robert and I were first to go and that’s the most nerve-racking spot. But Robert couldn’t have been more encouraging. I was so thrilled to have been drawn with him from the ‘hat’. We walked the course beforehand, and we discussed each jump. He made me feel really good, part of the team. It was a great experience.”

Whitaker’s cool, clear round gave her confidence, and her trusty pony was superb as she steered him over the jumps. The scene was set, and nobody really challenged their time of 20.39 seconds. The closest was a full 1.5 seconds behind, with the Whitaker-Roberts combination putting pressure on the rest and winning.

Billy Two Rivers is a 15-year-old gelding on which Amy, a pupil at Clounagh Junior High School, has competed for three and a half years. He is super-fast against the clock and they have won several events, including the Irish National Championship at Wexford in 2010.

Olympia was their last official event together as Amy moves up a class, and Billy will have to find a new home. “It was a great way to finish,” said Amy. “When I walked up with Robert to collect first prize, I though I was dreaming.”

Amy is the daughter of Gordon and Susan Roberts. Iveagh Pony Club district commissioner Vanne Campbell was also in London to see the victory. She said, “It was a great day for Amy and for the club. We’re very proud of her.”