Maybe I’m behind the times here, but I wasn’t aware that Horse Agility was something that you could compete in and win trophies for and even be World Champion in such a realm. That is, until I found out about perhaps the most adorable Exmoor stallion, Hawkwell Versuvius, or Bear.
Bear was born and raised in the wilderness of Exmoor, and when he was adopted by Dawn Westcott, he was completely feral and she said it took years to even get a halter on him. However, she prevailed after years and years of hard work and has created one of the best behaved and most trainable horses alive. Dawn and Bear have competed in Horse Agility for two years, and each year they have been named World Champions. Bear lives in a herd with mares and youngstock, as well as being a fully functioning riding horse in addition to his agility training.
Competitors from around the world compete directly against each other in the International Horse Agility Club Worldwide OHLA League, through set courses by video entry. They are judged by Horse Agility Club founder Vanessa Bee and compete in three separate class types: agility on the leadline, agility at liberty (where the horse is loose) and agility in the wild.
Dawn says that now Bear is a much more pliable character through this training, she’s ready to take it further. “Horse Agility is all about improving horsemanship and trying to promote interest in a new sport. Now it’s time for us to move on from actively competing ourselves and this year, I’d like to explore the ‘connection’ we’re developing with liberty work – particularly out in open, wilder spaces. We also need to concentrate on Bear’s ridden development and I’m working with groups of ponies together and seeing where that takes us. I see local horse people like Emma Massingale working with a herd at liberty, in the style of the Pignon’s, and I’m inspired by that,” she said.
(Agility work begins at around 1:50, so fast forward unless you want to see many pictures of exactly how fat this pony is in real life!)