The Howden Way February Spotlight Award winner is announced

Cleo Whitbread has been chosen as February’s The Howden Way Spotlight Award winner for celebrating development of skills and knowledge over outcome, being a good role model and ambassador for the sport and developing resilience. As part of her award, Cleo wins a uvex exxential II riding helmet, courtesy of Zebra Products.

Thirteen-year-old Cleo has been riding Bathleyhills Golden Spray (Wilma), a 14.2hh, 12-year-old mare since January 2023.

Coach Katie Williams nominated Cleo for the February Spotlight Award on behalf of the Wales & West Midlands Area Academy. She said: “Cleo has attended several The Howden Way training sessions and also attends BE regional youth training sessions. At a recent The Howden Way day at the Unicorn Centre, Cleo’s pony Wilma was being very difficult and exhibiting strong opinions over what she was and was not prepared to do! Cleo was so mature in the way she quietly dealt with the tantrums, including sitting some impressive moves. She never lost her temper but showed quiet but firm consistency which is just what the mare needed to help work through the problems. Cleo was understandably upset as it is horrible when you are in that situation in a group setting, but she did her best to keep smiling and showed real determination and resilience. She was rewarded when, the next day, Wilma jumped clear round a 1.10m show jumping competition.”

Laura Collett, who has the pleasure of selecting the winning candidate, said: “We’ve all been there with difficult horses who test our patience, but Cleo has shown that, despite her pony’s challenging behaviour, she understands her pony and how to get the best out of her. This has clearly helped developed a bond between the pair, which was evident in their success at their competition the next day. Cleo is an excellent example of how keeping clam and working through problems rationally and patiently can really pay off.”

Cleo commented: “Last season was my first full year with BE where we got to know one another at BE90 before moving up to BE100. We loved being part of the Wales and West Midlands U18 team at the Championships and finished a successful season coming sixth at my first three-day competition at Bicton.

“Regular training with BE coaches Tim Rogers, Katie Williams and Jonquil Hemming, including The Howden Way camps at The Unicorn and Aston-le-Walls, have been so beneficial in developing our partnership. I also found the non-ridden sessions at these camps where we talked about planning our season, horse and rider fitness and goal setting, really helpful. It’s also a great way to meet new riders, make friends and learn from watching others ride and share experiences.

“I’m really excited to start the season in the PT100 at Oasby in March and will be aiming to progress through the levels to PT2* with Wilma. I’ve also been lucky enough to take on the ride of Bally, a 15hh Connemara gelding (Ballycastle Ciaran) who I will also be competing.

“I was so delighted to have been awarded this month’s spotlight award and receive a UVEX hat – after what feels like a very long, wet winter, it was a lovely boost just as we’re gearing ourselves up for the start of the 2024 season.”

Each month, coaches delivering The Howden Way Regional Academies are invited to nominate a member who has championed the core values of the Academies whether it be welfare, driving for inclusivity, creating camaraderie and supporting others, celebrating development of skills and knowledge over outcomes and developing true ambassadors for the sport. The winner is then selected by Olympic Gold Medallist, Laura Collett, from a shortlist of contenders who have been nominated as deserving.

For more information, visit here

Non-members can attend up to two of any of The Howden Way training academies. For more information on The Howden Way training, visit here. For those wishing to join, there is a 40% discount for new Pony Club and Riding Club members. For information on how to join, visit here

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