Memories of the British Nationals: Sword of the Sky

Our memory today from the British National Championships remains a strong one for me personally, as being shared today is one of my own favourite memories from Malvern, and if I close my eyes, I can still see this amazing horse. Sword of the Sky (Sky Crusader x Song of the Sky). Please enjoy today’s champion as we continue to celebrate the Centenary of the Arab Horse Society.

30-209-21A Sword of the Sky 1998

Sword of the Sky – by Samantha Mattocks
Choosing my greatest Supreme Ridden British National Champion is no easy task. As anyone with a ridden horse knows, to get their horse to the AHS National Show is the result of many hours of blood, sweat and tears, and often injury, despair and wondering whether you will ever get there.

At the National Show, as with most shows, the ridden classes are held away from the ‘main’ action of the in-hand rings but, despite this, there is more tension, excitement and enjoyment for the majority of spectators.

To get into the ring on the Saturday afternoon means not only winning your class but either the purebred or Anglo/part-bred championship too.

In today’s show, the Supreme Ridden Championship is held before the in-hand Supreme Championship but, previously, the ridden was held at the end of the show, with many people in the grandstand often leaving and therefore missing the chance to see these beautiful Arabian horses at their very best.

My Supreme Ridden British National Champion comes from such a time. But it was a Saturday where the heavens opened and many people opted to stay in the grandstand rather than risk getting a soaking. As they were there, they watched the excitement unfolding in the ring in front of them. I like to think that many of those who stayed enjoyed it – certainly the reception given at the end of the display gave that thought a grain of truth. Given the conditions, the going for these ridden horses was difficult – cantering was dangerous and galloping was not something to be undertaken lightly. Maybe it was the bravery from the horses forward that captures the hearts of the audience.

Bravest of them all, for me, and my Ridden British National Champion is the wonderful, majestic Sword of the Sky (Sky Crusader x Song of the Sky). Ridden by the brilliant Caroline Nelson – sadly no longer a part of the Arabian showing scene – the partnership thoroughly deserved to win the spurs. In his individual display, Sword managed to show his true skill and natural flair to a totally silent audience, every person willing him on to do well, such was the power and presence this horse had. Despite the rain having stopped and the sun having come out, no one made a move to leave. I have never before witnessed such open appreciation of an Arabian horse by so many people and I believe that I am unlikely to do so ever again. Sword had us all at his feet, and the cheer that acknowledged his call to take the Supreme title was more than worthy of this beautiful stallion.

Sadly, Sword has since passed away but every time I watch Supreme Ridden Championship at the National Show, I always have his image in my mind, racing around the ring with a look of triumph on his face. A true champion.

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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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