Jane Holderness-Roddam being presented with the BEMA Lifetime Achievement Award by Rupert Bell at The London International Horse Show

Eventing legends, awe-inspiring Hickstead moments and rising stars were honoured at the 2023 British Equestrian Media Association’s (BEMA) Awards lunch at the London International Horse Show on Thursday (14 December).

Double Badminton winner Jane Holderness-Roddam was the recipient of BEMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which was announced during the lunch and then presented by Rupert Bell in the main arena during the evening performance, ahead of the grand prix freestyle.

Jane said she was “very touched” to receive the award.

Jane scored her first Badminton win in 1968, by dint of a friendly matron giving her time off from her nursing job in the obstetrics department of the Middlesex Hospital. Later that year, when she became the first British woman to compete on an Olympic eventing team – and win a gold medal – the press dubbed her “The Galloping Nurse”.

BEMA Chair Rupert Bell presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Jane Holderness-Roddam.
Jane Holderness-Roddam being presented with the British Equestrian Media Association (BEMA) Lifetime achievement awards by Rupert Bell. Pic courtesy of Peter Nixon.

She went on to win Badminton again, and Burghley, and eventually to judge at both events. She has officiated as a technical delegate and British Eventing steward at many more besides, and has chaired the eventing selectors and British Eventing.

Her family are synonymous with the very highest levels of equestrian sport – two siblings also represented Britain at Olympic level – and the breeding and promotion of British-bred sport horses. 

Rupert said: “We were delighted to present Jane with BEMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is one of the wisest heads and true constants in the horse world, through the good times and the bad.

“The return of the BEMA Awards lunch for the first time since 2019 was a huge success and a chance to bring so many people together to celebrate a spectacular year in equestrian sport.

“A huge thank you to all our sponsors and to Natasha Baker for being a superb host.”

Ros Canter, whose spectacular 2023 features individual and team European Eventing Championship gold medals – plus five-star victories at Badminton and Pau, was voted BEMA’s rider of the year.

She was presented with the BEMA Trophy and a bottle of Christmas vodka courtesy of The Oxton Liqueur Company.

Watcn her interview here.

Ros Canter is presented with the BEWA Trophy for Equestrian of the Year by BEMA Chair Rupert Bell
Ros Canter is presented with the BEWA Trophy by BEMA Chair Rupert Bell

Asked if next year is going to be even better, Canter said: “That’s the dream, isn’t it! But we are very much enjoying what’s happened this year so far. It’s been a great year. I’ve got my team at home and so many people to thank for it – I’m actually bringing them all here for a day out on Saturday to have a bit of a celebration, which will be lovely.”

Rising stars honoured

Showjumper Jodie Hall McAteer received the Worshipful Company of Saddlers' Award to the best under-25 rider, as voted for by BEMA members. Jodie, 23, was crowned leading rider at the 2022 London International Horse Show, where her week was headed by finishing third in her debut World Cup class. Her impressive 2023 record features a CSI5* win in Rome, the Ommen CSI3* grand prix, and the Leading Showjumper of the Year title for her HOYS grand prix victory.

BEMA Awards 2023 - Jodie Hall McAteer is presented with the Under-25 Prize by Hugh Taylor from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers
Jodie Hall McAteer is presented with the Under-25 Prize by Hugh Taylor from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers

Jodie, 23, was presented with a bridle by Hugh Taylor, prime warden of the Saddlers’ Company, before nipping off to compete in the Yeti Under-25 British Championship. She is also contesting the CSI5* at this week’s show.

“London is an amazing show, so I’m really excited for the weekend,” she said, adding that it was “unbelievable” to be leading rider here in 2022. 

“I wasn’t expecting that last year; there’s a little bit of expectation this year now, so the pressure is on a bit. It’s a new task this week, a different day, so I’ve just got to get stuck in and do the best I can.

“I would just like to say thank you on behalf of the riders for all the work you guys do [in the media] to give us the platform to jump at shows like this. Thank you for your work as well, we appreciate it.”

Gabriella Blake, 30, who made a spectacular senior squad debut at the 2023 European Para Dressage Championships, was the winner of the Para Dressage Rider of the Year Award, sponsored by Agria. Gabriella and Strong Beau claimed grade I individual and team bronze in Riesenbeck. 

BEMA Awards 2023 - Gabriella Blake being presented with the Agria Para Rider Award
Gabriella Blake being presented with the Agria Para Rider Award

“I wasn’t expecting it, I just wanted to go out and ride a confident test as it was obviously mine and my horse’s first championship,” said Gabriella, who won both medals riding with a dislocated hip.

“To win a team and individual bronze was absolutely incredible. Paris is definitely my big aim – it’s been my dream since I was a little girl to get to a Paralympics.”

Hickstead’s double celebration

Robert Whitaker’s King George V victory at the Royal International Horse Show aboard the homebred Vermento, by his father John’s great stallion Argento, was voted BEMA Moment of the Year.

Hickstead had double reason to celebrate, with a photo taken by freelance journalist and photographer Tilly Berendt of Harriet Biddick and Silver Lift’s tack malfunction at the Speed Derby winning the inaugural Kit Houghton Photo of the Year Award, sponsored by Fairfax & Favor. 

Harriet Biddick by Tilly Berendt
Tilly Berendt's winning photo entry: Harriet Biddick's tack malfunction at Hickstead.

Harriet and the 18-year-old gelding were targeting the record for the greatest number of wins in the class. But as they tackled the Irish bank, Silver Lift’s bridle slipped over his head. They popped through the treble of Hickstead planks – the penultimate question on the Speed Derby course – but as the crowd started to roar them home, it became clear that the bridle had come off completely.

Tilly, who was working for Hickstead’s press office that week, captured the moment Harriet lifted her hands to the sky – complete with the bridle.

“We arranged that I would go out and take some emotion shots for the press office and I happened to be totally in the right place at the right time,” said Tilly.

“I just happened to be really lucky to be outside the press office with a 300mm lens and got her reaction. I mean, gosh she played it well. She jumped the treble beautifully and just laughed her way to the in-gate!”

Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn said: “We are delighted that Robert Whitaker and Vermento’s win in the King George V Gold Cup has been recognised by BEMA members as the Moment of the Year.

“Robert produced the only clear round of the competition to win in definitive style, giving us the first British winner of this Grand Prix since 2013. Even more special, Robert’s winning ride was bred by his father John, who had been part of the winning Nations Cup team at Hickstead just two days previously, making it an extraordinary show for the Brits.”

She added: “Hickstead’s Derby classes are known for producing thrills and spills, but few could have predicted what happened in this year’s British Speed Derby.

“Reigning champion Harriet Biddick had to miss out on retaining her title when her horse Silver Lift’s bridle fell off at the penultimate combination, but Harriet showed remarkable cool-headedness to jump through the tricky treble of Hickstead planks, before cantering straight past the final fence due to her lack of steering. 

“Her expression perfectly reflected how we were all feeling – a mixture of shock, disappointment, relief and amazement – and this is perfectly encapsulated in Tilly’s winning image. It’s a photo that shows all the drama and emotion of our sport, and we think Tilly is a very worthy winner of this inaugural competition.”

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