Jumper Goes Gold for Sophie

4 Mar

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Jumper Goes Gold for Sophie


Ashanti may have turned up at the Akers Opiki home for a little jump training, but she’s left that way behind her and today was crowned Level 5 Horse of the Year.

The 11-year-old, who was both national and HOY level 3 champ in 2015, this year won championship at every show she has been to at level 5.

“I didn’t really pick her as such a superstar in the beginning,” says Sophie de Clifford of the Debbie Smith owned horse.

The horse was sent to the Akers sisters for a bit of jumping, hacking and dressage.

“Really, she was there to have a jolly old time.”

However, the sensitive and “mentally fragile” Ashanti was quite bolshy and mum Jane put her foot down saying Lucy was not to jump the horse.

“I was given her to do dressage on. There was something I really liked about her . . . she is a true professional and just kept getting better and better.”

That was two years ago.

“Last season was her first competing,” says de Clifford. “She had been a happy hacker and had a foal before coming to me.”

However, Ashanti has proven to be quite the dressage queen. This is not a horse who likes kisses and cuddles.

“She is very much a chestnut mare,” says de Clifford. “You can’t tell her off, you just have to take a breath, turn around and do it again. She has taught me a lot of patience and her heart is most definitely in the right place.”

De Clifford says if she doesn’t hit the right button, things can quickly go array.

“When she is on the job, she is very focused. You just have to get it right! She doesn’t cope well with idiots.”

de Clifford F0434

A winner for Soph . . . . Sophie de Clifford with her Level 5 Horse of the Year Ashanti. Photo by Jan Sutherland/Take the Moment

Next season de Clifford, who moved to Matamata during the winter, hopes to tilt the mare at Prix St Georges.

“My goal was to be there by Christmas but the short season meant we had to hold off. I am really pleased we did the season at Level 5 and just thrilled at how she coped in that premier arena.”

HOY marked the end of the season for this promising combination who are trained by Vanessa Way.

“I am just so lucky to have the ride on her and am looking forward to getting her to grand prix.”

De Clifford also has a very nice six-year-old Alamo BL who she co-owns with Jane Geor who she says looks very promising.

The relief primary school teacher is growing her horse rehab business and loving her new base in Matamata.


Results –


Level 5 Horse of the Year: Sophie de Clifford (Matamata) Ashanti 1, Tessa Van Bruggen (Blenheim) Fortunato 2, Julie Flintoff (Kaikohe) Belladonna MH 3, Lucarne Dolley (Kumeu) Sansibar 4, Sharlene Royal (Greenhithe) New World Frankie J 5, Janelle Sangster-Ward (Marlborough) Dunstan Astek Ghisella 6.


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