Memories of the British Nationals: BB Balenca

Continuing with memories from the British National Championships in this Centenary year for the Arab Horse Society, we feature our next British National Champion. Today’s champion is a much-loved mare out of the Horse of the Century, Balaton.

BB Balenca

BB Balenca – by Marie-Louise van Wyk

There are several British National Champions that have caught my eye and that I can consider to be a favourite, but to judge this lovely mare at the 2002 British National Championships was an honour indeed.

BB Balenca (Balaton x Bogema) was bred by Desiree Basile and her owners, Roy and Carole Ratcliffe, had travelled to the Tersk Holland Sale to buy a mare when they saw BB Balenca, who was in the silent sale. It was love at first sight for them not only because she is very eye-catching and correct, but because of her superb movement that so many of the Russian-bred horses are known for and the Ratcliffe’s love good movement.

BB Balenca has been with the Ratcliffe’s ever since and now has some lovely foals to prove that she is a marvellous broodmare as well; one can safely say that she has become everything that they thought she would be and more.

When I judge, I always look out for that one outstanding horse to come into the ring and having judged some very lovely mares over the first two days, the intermediate class was due and this wonderful, free-moving mare with loads of type and refinement entered the ring; I knew that I had found what I had been looking for!

The final day of the show dawned with forecasts of thundershowers for later in the day and it pelted down just before the Mare Championship, but stayed away long enough for a thorough deliberation out of a mouth-watering selection of mares. Finally I knew and was satisfied, as I had known from the minute she had entered the arena, that BB Balenca was my unmistakable choice for 2002 British National Champion Mare. She is quite unforgettable.

Later I learned that she had only been shown once before at the UK International where she took first place and a gold medal. Worse still was that the Ratcliffe’s had been undecided about bringing her to the Nationals as they didn’t think that the judge would suit their big-moving Russian mare! Thank goodness they changed their minds!

This was not the first time that I had placed an eye-catching Balaton daughter first at an international show. As far back as 1996, I fell in love with the three year old Balenina (ex Neva). She went on to be the dam of the well-known stallion Psynergy by Padrons Psyche.

I am a great believer in fate and today I know it was just meant to be, for me to be invited to judge at the 2002 British Nationals by the late Dr June Alexander and to set eyes on that superb chestnut Balaton daughter, BB Balenca. The Ratcliffe’s are very fortunate to own such a superlative mare and I wish them many years of much happiness with her.

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This post comes from a series we first ran in The Arabian Magazine in 2005. Called Malvern Calling, the series celebrated British National Champions from Malvern, Ascot and even Kempton Park, and different readers shared their favourite memory from the British Nationals. There is always something special about watching the moment a horse is crowned British National Champion, so please enjoy the memories that will be shared here over the coming month.

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