How did a dream come true for Roberta and wildboy Jasper?
PUBLISHED: 16:03 08 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:33 08 November 2017
Woodbridge pairing in Search for a Star final at Horse of the Year Show
Success means the most when it’s the result of an adventure, together. Of days working in wind and sun and rain. Of ups and downs. And, through it all, a mutual trust grows. That’s why the triumphs taste so sweet.
It’s how it’s been for Roberta Bradby and Neutrino, better known as Jasper. She got him when he was two years old – halter-broken, having been led a little on the rein but “wild, basically”. One of those horses that’s always going to be a touch highly strung and prone to a rush of blood.
Six years or so later, though, he’s appearing before the crowds at the Horse of the Year Show: walking, trotting and cantering gracefully as one of only 10 horses in the Search for a Star final designed to give amateur riders a chance to shine.
They’re also ridden by a judge, who is looking for a willing attitude, nice outline, manners and other attributes.
No wonder Roberta was thrilled, and a tad emotional, after leaving the arena at the NEC in Birmingham.
“I tried not to cry too much,” says the 26-year-old. “I held it together until I came out of the ring, and then, walking back down with my mum, she said ‘That’s absolutely incredible’, and I started blubbing.
“Having known where my horse ‘came from’ and how silly he could be, and now feeling he would do anything for me, I’m obviously proud of myself but I feel so proud for him.”
The 15-hand chestnut was placed fifth out of 10 – a great thrill for his owner.
“When I got him, I never expected him to go to HOYS (Horse of the Year Show). People go out and spend hundreds of pounds to qualify. He was just a really nice horse that happened to fall into my hands. To end up getting there is just incredible. He’s been such a star this year.”
Not that it’s always been plain sailing... “I swear he had a vendetta to ruin my face!”
Pardon? “He’s knocked both my front teeth out, and chipped my bottom teeth.”
This was early in 2014, while out hacking. A pheasant flew suddenly out of a bush and frightened the horse being ridden by Roberta’s mum Jo – which in turn scared the living daylights out of Jasper, easily spooked.
“My horse shot round. I went straight down his shoulder and stupidly kept hold of the reins. I got pulled round and kind of head-butted against his back legs and then went straight into the ground. I broke my nose; I had two black eyes. I don’t even know if he caught me with his hoof or if I hit my chin on something.
“I think I’d been with my boyfriend about a year and remember ringing him up and saying ‘My face is ruined!’ Five-hundred-pounds later in dental work, I now have my teeth back!”
At another show, Jasper smacked Roberta in the head and left her with two thick lips.
“He wasn’t the easiest of chaps,” she smiles. “Because he is a highly-strung horse, it’s in his blood. This year he’s come out of himself completely. He’s got into big finals. He’s got into evening performances where there are hundreds of people, the atmosphere is really buzzing, you’ve got spotlights, you’ve got music, and he’s taken it in his stride.
“It sounds so clichéd, but I really do feel like this year it’s ‘Right, mum, I understand what I’ve got to do. I trust you. You won’t put me in any situation that’s scary. You want me to do that? Let’s do it.’ I’m very proud of my little boy!”
Jasper went beautifully at the Search for a Star qualifier near St Neots in June – on perhaps the hottest day of the year – and came first out of 26.
Two competitions proved great warm-ups for the NEC. At Equifest, in Peterborough, he won two classes and other honours. At the British Show Horse Association National Championship in Buckinghamshire he jumped well in awful rain that saw Roberta’s soaked jacket dye two pairs of jodhpurs. He was Grass Roots Supreme Champion.
On the day big day, it seemed Roberta was more affected by nerves than Jasper! She needn’t have fretted. “It sounds corny, but I always remember the Olympics and they (world governing body the Fédération Equestre Internationale) hash-tagged TwoHearts – because you’ve got the heart of the horse and the heart of the rider. And it is true. If you don’t work together, you won’t get anywhere. They’ve got to trust you and they’ve got to be happy.
“I’m so proud of him.”
Roberta and her family moved from London to Suffolk when she was 18 months old. She lives with mum Jo and dad Bill near Woodbridge. Jo is an enthusiast and Roberta had a pony from about two and a half.
Summers are devoted to UK horse shows. ‘I haven’t been abroad since I was nine.’
She’s usually up at 5.30am each day and riding by about 6.15am. Then it’s a quick shower, ‘attempt to make myself look presentable’, and on to work in advertising sales with Archant, publisher of this website, newspapers and magazines. After work, there are more tasks at the stables.
Boyfriend Sam, on the groundstaff at Ipswich Town, is not ‘horsey’ but is a great supporter.
During the winter, Roberta will be working for her HGV licence so she can share the load with mum on their travels.
Riding from a young age has taught her about overcoming disappointment, dealing confidently with adults, and making friends.
‘I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t been brought up with horses. Sounds really lame, doesn’t it, but it is true.’