We have been pouring over records at HQ in making our nominations for 2017 EquiRatings Horse of the Year. (If you haven’t nominated a horse yet, go leave a comment and tag a friend on our Facebook page. There are two Rambo Duo rugs up for grabs!)
Four names jumped out to us as horses that improved across multiple Key Performance Indicators in 2017. Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class improved his cross county clear rate from 80% in 2016 to a perfect 100%. Hunter Valley II boosted his top 5 strike rate from 14.3% to 50%. Vanir Kamira tightened her completion rate from 83.3% to 100%. Europeans bronze medalist Bulana dropped her dressage average from 46.2 to 38.9.
Read on for all the stats on these surprise performers in the 2017 season, and let us know in the comments which stat stands out to you the most. You’ll see multiple names from this list when we announce the 12 nominees for EquiRatings Horse of the Year on Monday!
2017 – Best Dressage 40.2 | XC Clear Rate 100% | Best Finishing Score 44.4
2016 – Best Dressage 43.7 | XC Clear Rate 80% | Best Finishing Score 48.4
Ballaghmor Class would not have been a horse on our radar at the start of the 2017 season. In 2016, he had a followed the well-trodden path of an eight or nine year old horse, doing well at two-star (five consecutive top 10 finishes early in the season, including a win at Ballindenisk CIC2*) before moving up to the next level at Blenheim and Boekelo. The move up at Blenheim did not go to plan. Adding 23.2 time penalties on cross country and three rails down in show jumping saw him finish 36th in the 8/9-year-olds. Then came their CCI3* debut at Boekelo, he added 20 jumping penalties on cross country to finish 40th.
After another winter to mature, Ballaghmor Class emerged in the 2017 season a different horse. The ten year old finished 11th at Burnham Market CIC3*, jumping his first clear show jumping round at international level in more than a year. He then delivered the second FOD of his career at Tattersalls CCI3* to finish 4th.
While he pulled two rails at Aachen CICO3*, he caught everyone’s eye that day as one of five horses to make the time on cross country in a stiff field of four-star winners and championship medalists. It was a sign of something big to come at Burghley in his CCI4* debut.
Sitting 6th after dressage on 40.2 — the second best dressage score of his career — Ballaghmor Class smoked the cross country and added only 1 time penalty to hold the overnight lead. When Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul dropped a rail, Ballaghmor Class had the breathing room he needed to add one rail and 1 time penalty and win on 45.6. He is almost certainly going to make our Horse of the Year list – a brilliant season that we didn’t see coming!
“He’s come here and proved what I’ve been saying all week. A few people said I shouldn’t have brought him here, but I thought, why am I listening to them?” – Oliver Townend
Hunter Valley II
2017 – Completion Rate 100% | Clear Show Jumping Rate 50% | Top 5 Rate 50%
2016 – Completion Rate 57% | Clear Show Jumping Rate 20% | Top 5 Rate 14.3%
Hunter Valley II had seven international outings in 2016 and all but one (a WD in the CIC2* at Barbury) were at three-star level. When you get up this level, the gains are smaller but with such fine margins between the big guns, they can be hard to find. Hunter Valley II had four internationals in 2017, improved his completion rate from 57% in 2016 to 100%. Last season, was a disappointing finish to the season being eliminated at Boekelo, this season they finished at Pau with a top 5 in their first ever CCI4*. He improved his top 5 rate from 14.3% in 2016 to 50% in 2017, the second highest leap in this group of surprise performers.
After a strong start to the season at Belton to finish 14th, Hunter Valley II then went on to Bramham. While a rail down there cost him the win, he still posted an impressive 3rd place finish on 48.8, his second best finishing score at CCI3* level.
While he had a cheeky 20 jumping penalties in the Event Rider Masters at Blenheim, that didn’t stop Hunter Valley from impressing in his four-star debut at Pau. He added 8.8 time penalties on cross country and jumped clear on the final day to finish 4th on 50.8. An interesting find – aside from the WD at Barbury this season, ‘Gizmo’ has now competed exclusively at three-star level and above for three straight seasons.
2017 – Dressage Average 46.3 | Completion Rate 100% | Top 10 Rate 50%
2016 – Dressage Average 47.1 | Completion Rate 83.3% | Top 10 Rate 33%
We don’t often get to see a horse like Vanir Kamira move from one top level rider to another. Consecutive top 5 finishes at Barbury and Hartpury later in 2016 that we have no doubt, the rider change is not the only factor, this mare would have had a big 207 with Taperz too. Piggy French’s return in 2017 has been fun and teaming her up with Vanir Kamira was something we were looking forward to watching. They started at Belton in Piggy’s first three-star run in more than a year. Finishing well down the leaderboard in 73rd place was a far cry from what they would go on to achieve.
Vanir Kamira went on to finish inside the top 15 in her next five runs (all at three-star level), placing 2nd at Burnham Market on an FOD of 42.8 and then 11th in the Nations Cup at Houghton Hall, where she added just one rail in show jumping. At Bramham the mare showed what a machine she is cross country, skipping around with 2.8 time penalties and adding one rail on the final day to finish 6th.
A 15th place finish at Hartpury CIC3* served as her final prep run for Burghley, where a ten-year old Vanir Kamira had finished 34th with Paul Tapner in 2015. The twelve-year old in 2017 added 3.2 cross country time penalties and jumped the first clear CCI4* show jumping round of her career to finish 2nd at Burghley 2017. They ended up on 46.9, the best CCI finishing score of her international career across all levels.
“She’s just been such a good girl. I’m so proud. It’s amazing the difference a year makes — it’s amazing to be here and up the leaderboard.” – Piggy French
2017 – Dressage Average 38.9 | Average Finishing Score 49.6 | Top 5 Rate 75.0%
2016 – Dressage Average 46.2 | Average Finishing Score 65.3 | Top 5 Rate 42.9%
The Bulana journey from 2016 is not dissimilar from Hunter Valley – a 2016 season with quantity and a 2017 season with quality. Just four international outings for this mare in 2017 and three of the four were special. After a cross country blip at her first international run of the season at Burnham Market, Bulana cracked the 30s for the first time in her career at Chatsworth, adding 2.8 cross country time penalties to her dressage score of 39.9 to finish 4th.
Bulana then lowered her dressage score even further to 38.7 in her four-star debut at Luhmühlen, made the optimum time for the first time at CCI3*/CCI4* level, and jumped a clear show jumping round with 3 time penalties to finish 2nd on 41.7.
Her stellar performance in Germany landed a spot on the British team for the European Championships at Strzegom. The mare stormed around cross country to add just 0.4 time penalties to her personal best dressage score of 35.1. A clear show jumping round the next day secured individual bronze for Nicola Wilson and team gold for Team GB.
All four of these horses improved their average dressage scores in 2017, but Bulana takes the title for most improved, tightening her average by 7.3 penalties from the 2016 season. The three best dressage scores of her career all came in the 2017 season. While all four improved their average show jumping penalties, Bulana takes the title again for most improved, reducing her average from 4.6 penalties in 2016 to 1.5 in 2017.
‘Berry’ also improved her best finishing score from 2016 by 13 penalties in the 2017 season — the largest margin of the four. She also takes the title for most improved average finishing score, dropping from 65.3 in 2016 to a significantly improved 49.6 average in 2017. Her top five strike rate skyrocketed from 42.9% in 2016 to 75% in 2017. She will also make our Horse of the Year list.