Memories of the British Nationals: Manex

Continuing with memories from the British National Championships in this Centenary year for the Arab Horse Society, we feature our next British National Champion. For this horse, we are going back in time once more, to the early 1980s.


Manex – by Marilyn Sweet
When I was asked to write a piece about my favourite British National Champion one name sprang immediately to mind… Manex. Although I have attended the AHS Show in 1975 and from 1977 onwards and have, therefore, seen many fantastic, high-profile champions, Manex is the one, simply because we personally owe much to him!

Manex was a 1975 chestnut colt by Manalix and out of May Fairy by Zehros and he first came to my attention via an advert in the AHS News Autumn 1976 (page 17). Why? Well because he was a lovely bright chestnut with four white stockings and a blaze (my favourite colour at the time!), he was a prolific prize-winner at top level and he lived very near to us. The advert stated “visitors always welcome” (if it hadn’t done, I probably wouldn’t have dared to call!) so, very quickly, there we were meeting Manex and his breeders, Joe and Barbara Houghton, for the first time. Joe and Barbara were lovely, down-to-earth people who took the time and trouble to educate us with Manex as the model. A firm friendship began that day, which mushroomed further into the Arab community. Peter took some photos and, to cut a long story short, that was the start of how he became an official photographer at the AHS shows at Haydock and Ascot.

Manex had won at Peterborough as a yearling colt in 1976 – we missed that as we were away on honeymoon, very bad planning, I know! He continued doing well in-hand as a colt and then, in November 1979, he went off to school with Caroline Nelson in Cheshire. His ridden career the following year was phenomenal. That August at Ascot, he was top of the class winning the Junior Ridden Stallions, then Best Stallion, then British National Champion Ridden Arab. He then won the Supreme Ridden Championship, becoming the first purebred to win the Henry Wynmalen Trophy (the antique pair of stirrups) – and he was still a novice. He also won at the Birmingham Internationals later that year. Manex’s performances were characterised by a scintillating gallop – not the extension down the long side seen today but an all out, breath-taking one, sweeping around the ring and ending with him under perfect control in complete harmony with Caroline, with whom he had such a rapport. I only wish we had the motor drives and video cameras of today to capture this…

Having proved all he could as a ridden stallion and with his boundless energy and enthusiasm, his next challenge was racing with Liz Needham. It was a very sad day when an emotional Joe telephoned us with the terrible news that Manex had suffered a fall in his first race, which subsequently ended his young life. Thanks for the memories and everything else. British National Champion Manex.

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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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  1. Caroline Nelson says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Manex was indeed a magical, cheeky, super talented little horse. To mention – I love Malvern as a venue but there was something very special about Ascot. I go back even further, to Kempton Park. By the way, I’ve one adverse comment about this super picture – my boots are too short!

    1. Caroline, thank you for your comments. I very much agree – Ascot had something special to it. I have incredibly rose-tinted memories about the show there, and I am glad that I am not the only one. Ha ha re the boots! Keep an eye on this series, my own memory is yet to come and shares the story of a remarkable horse with you up. Samantha xx

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