Hugo The British Vaulting Horse Legend

Background: Nearly 15 yrs ago, I (Helen) got to know a young English backpacker named Alice, and we quickly formed a bond over a love of horses, and quick witted shenanigans. I first met Alice when my husband and I managed the feedlot next door to the farm we lived on at the time, and she was babysitting the owner's kiddos. I asked her one day if she would like to come next door to our house to see my horses, and she looked at me warily and asked: "When you say next door... how far are we talking?" I wasn't sure why she was so worried about the distance, as it was only about 5km between properties and it wasn't like we expected her to walk, but it turns out when she first arrived in Australia, and was much further West than our place, a trip 'next door' had turned out to be well over 100km and had caught her by surprise...

Helen and Alice

-Myself, and Alice on 'Delta', 2009-

A few years later, and we were lucky enough to visit her and her husband in the UK whilst on our very belated honeymoon, enjoy time in her beautiful part of the world, and meet their gorgeous little newborn, Belle. Fast forward a few more years and Alice's horse addiction had well and truly rubbed off on her daughter, and they spent every spare second with horses, and this is where Hugo appeared on the scene. Hugo was recently crowned 'Best Non International Vaulting Horse' at the 2023 British Champs and I thought our Earlwood followers might enjoy hearing a bit about this lovely Cob.


Take it away Alice:

"I cannot describe the moment I found out he won the title of ‘Best non international vaulting horse’ at the 2023 British Championships, but I know it meant more to my daughter Belle and me than any other win could have.

I cannot describe the moment I found out he won the title of ‘Best non international vaulting horse’ at the 2023 British Championships, but I know it meant more to my daughter Belle and me than any other win could have.

A very good friend of mine once said to me some years ago that he was special, that he was destined to be more than just a gypsy cob, and she continues to uphold that statement every day. But I totally agree, I know everyone thinks their horses are special – and to those people they really are! But Hugo, Hugo brings life to every single day of the year. He has so much personality and he knows just how to tell you what he is thinking!


He arrived to me in the February of 2016, half the width he is now, probably a hand smaller and only partially clipped – some years later we fully understand why he only had half a clip! He was my horse once, my pride and joy and something just for me that I didn’t have to share with anyone else – but that didn’t last long!


Belle started her vaulting in April 2019. Just a tiny 6year old with big dreams. It wasn’t long before he was doing circles with a saddle pad on while she threw herself around a bit. Covid saw the sudden stop of anything outside our home life and this just made her hungry for more. Before I knew it, we had bought a roller and pad and by the end of Covid she was throwing herself all over him.


Those with horses will understand what I mean when I say horses were born for the job. Hugo adores Belle and if she asked him to jump through fire he would do it without a second thought. He has never questioned her ideas and thoughts; he has never so much as flicked an ear in the wrong direction when it comes to vaulting. If you leave the stable door even a crack open he will happily mow you down, but on that lunge, he knows his job and he will do anything and everything to make her happy.


It didn’t start easy, he didn’t know how to canter let alone canter on a circle. Months turned to a year of sending him forward, and forward and forward. I still remember their first competition together, how he had never seen such an atmosphere and he just lapped it up, thriving off the environment.

Hugo has made many little people’s dreams come true. This year he took our team of 6 – winning every single competition! Fitting 3 vaulters on him at any one time was no mean feat, but for every fall, every tear, every smile and every success, there was one constant, Hugo.


Hugo has been like a little local celebrity. I haven’t yet been to a competition where someone hasn’t come to me to tell me how much they love watching him. Over the last couple of years Belle and Hugo have had many successes - English Champions, winning at the Welsh, Reserve British Champions, the list goes on, but by far their most successful day was the day he won ‘Best non international vaulting horse’.


This prize was a culmination of both of their efforts over the years. Hugo is not ‘easy’ to vault, in fact he’s most unhelpful! He gives no lift to mount, he’s bouncy, he has short choppy strides, he’s quite sharp to whip movements and most of all, he’s not got a lot of room! But he has opened doors up for Belle she never thought possible. They won that prize together, the years of blood sweat and tears training together. They didn’t come from a level playing field. He’s not a naturally balanced horse and he will never have the desirable floating long strides. A week’s holiday requires 6 weeks of fitness to bring him back, but this is Hugo. He is the very best of what he can be, and he is everything to us. He is one in a million."


Follow Belle and Hugo on their Insta:


Photo credits: HJ Photography



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