A dream come true: sponsoring the 2023 Horse & Hound awards

In this blog, our co-owner and lifelong horse lover Danielle shares the story of how Black Nova Designs became a sponsor of the prestigious Horse & Hound awards. It marks the end of another year of growth and expansion in the Black Nova Designs brand, and we’re thrilled to be able to sponsor high profile events just eight years into our business journey.

I’ve been ‘horse-mad’ for as long as I can remember. Those of you who know the backstory of Black Nova will be aware that I worked as a groom and rider for years, as well as in working in the office for a horse feed brand. My family has horses and I love spending time with these amazing creatures. I’ve read Horse & Hound since I was a child – it’s the ‘bible’ of the British equestrian industry, comes out once a week and I still try to read every single issue.  

Here at Black Nova Designs we work with businesses in all sectors, designing and hosting websites as well as supporting them with tech requirements. But we’ve got an amazing reputation in the horsey world. That’s no surprise when you consider I’ve been working hard at networking within the rural and equestrian sector for years! I must mention that I also network extensively in our local area with all sorts of businesses, but the horsey community was one of the first ‘niche’ sectors I targeted. In recent years we’ve invested in exhibiting at equestrian events too, and in 2023 we attended Badminton Horse Trails for the second year in a row, as well as Gatcombe for the Festival of British Eventing. We’ve now designed websites for lots of businesses in the sector – equestrian retail brands, training venues, riders, vets, specialist marketing agencies and so much more!

So, when the chance came up to sponsor a category at this year’s Horse & Hound, I had to jump at it. We were thrilled to be able to sponsor the event horse of the year category as it’s one of the most exciting out there. I love watching eventing and to succeed, the horses must be truly incredible. If you’re new to equestrian sport, eventing is the modern sport based on the ‘military test’ designed for cavalry horses to prove themselves. The test required a horse to demonstrate perfect obedience and manoeuvrability, then endurance, bravery and jumping at speed, followed by the ability to still jump accurately and in control after all that work – after all, battles didn’t stop to let the cavalry horses have a day off to recover! Those three areas have evolved into today’s eventing phases – dressage, cross-country and show jumping – and the horses and riders need to nail all three to win.

There were five finalists in the event horse of the year category at this year’s Horse & Hound awards. Here’s a quick overview of them, including their owners and riders:

Ballaghmor Class, owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan and ridden by Oliver Townend. The combination won this year’s Burghley Horse Trials, six years after they won it for the first time – impressive stuff!

Lordships Graffalo, owned by Michele Saul and ridden by Ros Canter, this British-bred gelding, claimed two of eventing’s top prizes this year when he won Badminton and took the gold medal at the European championships. At just 11 he’s still young for a five-star event horse and with the Paris 2024 Olympics looming, he’s an exciting horse for Ros to have the ride on. 

London 52, owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett and Laura Collett and ridden by Laura. This duo won Badminton Horse Trials in 2022 but missed this year due to an injury. Laura rerouted to Luhmühlen where London 52 stayed on his leading dressage score with clear rounds cross-country and showjumping to win.

Galileo Nieuwmoed owned by Gillian Jonas and ridden by David Doel. A lesser-known horse but one who’s shown amazing consistency at five-star level and amazing jumping ability, Galileo was partnered by David to finish as runner up at Burghley this year. Certainly, one to watch next year!

The award ceremony was held at the very end of November at Dallas Burston Polo Club in Warwickshire, so Kyle and I dressed up and headed along for the party. It was brilliant, if not slightly surreal, to be rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the equestrian world! There were Olympians, Paralympians, influencers, breeders and lots of other equestrian business owners there and I adored every moment. It was downright amazing to see our logo up there on the screens alongside the big boys.

The very worthy winner of the Horse & Hound Event Horse of the Year category for 2023 winner was Lordships Graffalo, and we definitely cheered as much as everyone else when he was announced.

While we still had another few weeks in the office after that, it certainly felt like an amazing way to finish the year. A glittering evening seeing our business in a place that I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would be! It’s been 12 months of ups and downs, as I’m sure is the case for lots of other small businesses. We’ve seen so many customers struggle with rising costs and cash flow, and they’ve certainly impacted us too. We’ve also seen fellow businesses close their doors in greater numbers than ever before, something that’s just so sad. But we’ve also had wonderful highs too, and that evening in particular will be etched in my memory for many years to come.

We’ve got exciting plans for the trade stand for 2024 so make sure you keep a beady eye out for details of where we’ll be exhibiting next year and be sure you come and see us.

Now, we’re on the countdown to the holidays and the end of the year. We’ll be uploading some blogs looking at websites and tech trends to look out for in the coming weeks, and Kyle and I will be flying to Australia soon for a much-needed holiday with the family.

Whatever you’re doing for the festive season, I hope all our customers and supporters have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year!