Amazing April: Introducing – Shona Stewart and the Summer Tölt Series

Shona Stewart is the ideas person who conceived Tölt Online (now run by IHSGB), Tölt.Club and now is discussing proposals for the Summer Tölt Series across the UK and around the world. 

The Summer Tölt Series is Shona Stewart’s latest venture into online gaited competition, working with Gundula Sharman in discussions with the IHSGB and other people (see the Set the Pace Blog post), giving gaited horses around the world the opportunity to compete in Oval track competitions from their nearest track (possibly as near as their own field with a mown oval track or several people are offering video facilities and assistance at their own oval tracks when free) or arena if they don’t wish to travel.  This gives anyone who wants to a chance to show off their gaits and win a chance to qualify for the next round of the competition.

The competition is open to people with gaited horses from every level utilising the judging facilities provided by IHSGB Tölt Online (new competition starts 2nd April 2019), Tolt.Club Gaited Competitions (monthly individual or team competitions) or ViHC (the deadline has been extended to the middle of May but you still need previous qualifying scores to enter this competition at the moment.)

As with all of Shona’s ideas they are based in the desire to give people with gaited horses more opportunities to train, learn and take part in speicalist events that are not otherwise readily available, with coaching support and feedback from experienced national and international judges and to take part from where they are…. (more details).

Shona’s background with Icelandic horses started 20 years ago, she wrote…

I had just lost my four legged Shetland companion to the bigger horses in the other field and really needed something to keep my mare in her field. She had taken to jumping a five bar gate to accompany me on hacks when left alone.

I can’t recall if I dreamt about it, read it somewhere or someone told me that an Icelandic might be a good replacement and I could have some fun with it on the way. This led me on a journey which still continues today. In the days before Facebook, information was hard to come by, none of the standard horse books mentioned them – I was intrigued and very suprised to find a herd on the doorstep!

Liz and Clive Phillips introduced me to their horses based outside Stonehaven. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to ride Dreki, a lovely chestnut who promptly took off at speed and in a gait I had never experienced before – but I was hooked.

I later met a field of yearlings and got to know Asathor fra Rickerton. A small chap with a big personality, sporting a large pom pom forelock and an inquisitive nature.  He was always first at the gate and soon joined my other two horses back home.

He quickly became a favourite with my friends and neighbours who were curious to know about the breed, who many had never heard of. He was a born ambassador;  always friendly and seeking human company, unlike his aloof field companions.

This laid back attitude continued into his training, he was once unkindly referred to as “the beach donkey” and while he was never going to be a world tölt champion, his gaits were clean and he gave many people their first tölt experience and brought a smile to those who tried it.

While schooling bored him and he resisted by simply refusing to move from the centre of the arena, much to the hilarity of on-lookers and frustration of the rider, he still managed to hold his own against the big horses in dressage when the situation required it.

Wavy bangy sticks – no problem for Asathor fra Rickerton

Over the past 20 years Asathor has given numerous riders their confidence back, raised awareness of the breed, been a partner in wild camping, endurance, cross country, polocrosse and latterly stepping in to become a racing pony at a recent junior racing event; always keeping up with all of the other breeds.

All of this he takes in his deceptively large Icelandic stride, willing to give most things a go with a smile – with the exception of displays when he has been known to become a bit short tempered and is not keen on wearing costumes!

Just yesterday he met a wee girl who had been badly injured in a riding accident and lost her confidence entirely, he seemed to sense that and carried her like a precious object.

It was lovely to see him 20 years on put a smile on another face and together we hope to help get her back in the saddle as she has already fallen for his charms.

Not every Icelandic was born to live a super-star life, live in a warm stable with 24 hour attention, competing on an oval track.  Not every Icelandic is high actioned with super fast tölt, those are the exceptions, exciting and important to the breed as those horses are.

The rest were born to another calling and we are fortunate to have them as they quietly go about their everyday magic, we know what joy they bring to our lives and that the young people like the one Asathor  met yesterday are the future of the breed in our country and around the world.

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