PONY breeder Robert Hensby is really riding high just now.
The Dewsbury farmer has been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a judge at a prestigious horse show.
Next week, he will be part of a panel deciding on winners at the Royal Welsh Show – the Crufts of the equestrian world. It is the top show for Welsh ponies and usually plays host to one or more members of the royal family.
“You only get one chance to do this,” said Mr Hensby, who breeds Welsh section B ponies at the Laithehill Stud at Briestfield.
“And this is the big one for us. You don’t turn it down when you are asked.”
The honour comes after more than 40 years in the horse-breeding business.
Mr Hensby’s stud was established in 1968 with sole aim of producing quality ponies with true Welsh characteristics.
In that time, he has shown his own ponies with great success and been a judge at many shows for Welsh ponies and cobs, which attract thousands of visitors.
“People are really keen to see them,” said Mr Hensby.
He found out about the judging honour a year ago and has not been allowed to show any of his own stock since then.
“I can’t do any showing until after the show is over. Not anywhere. This is so there is no risk of influence over winners,” he said.
The Laithehill Stud generally has 12 mares, 12 foals and two stallions. And until recently, Mr Hensby, who is 67, did most of the work himself. Now, he is helped by one of his two daughters, Victoria.
Born and bred in Thornhill, the Hensby family was well-known for their farm at Frank Lane. Robert Hensby has since expanded the beef cattle and corn business to around 200 acres in the Briestfield area.
A keen rider from an early age, he bought a pony to break in ‘as a bit of fun’.
“Then I started to show the pony and it turned out to be a winner,” he said. “That got me going and it just went from there. I am really looking forward to judging at the Royal Welsh, but I’ll be back to showing as soon as it’s over!”
The Royal Welsh runs from Monday July 23 to July 26.