The sixties were the real heyday of showjumping. It was at this time that a Legend arose that will remain forever imprinted in the hearts and minds of avid equestrians. The Legend was that of Stroller and Marion Coakes, who together conquered major Show Jumping events, both in their home of England and abroad.
So what? Plenty of talented horses and riders have done that, right? Right, but what makes the story of Stroller so amazing, was the fact that he was only 14.2hh tall. This tiny little Thoroughbred/Connemara cross certainly defied all the odds.
Young Marion grew up in a family of avid show jumpers, so at a young age she was already competing and winning trophies around Britain riding her 13.1 hands pony ‘Music.’ In observing Marion’s talent and commitment, her father thought her ready for a slightly larger pony. On seeing Stroller, he thought it a perfect junior pony for young ten-year-old Marion.
Before long, Marion and Stroller went on to dominate the junior circuit around Great Britain. Later, when Marion turned 16, her father thought it time for a larger horse for his daughter once again, but Marion would not part with her beloved Stroller. So Marion and Stroller continued together, into the senior division classes.
At the Royal International Horse Show, the pair won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. By their second year on the senior circuit, they conquered the competition to win the Three Nations Cup.
Next came the Hickstead Derby. in case you are not familiar with the Hickstead Derby, it is one of the most imposing events on the British show jumping calendar. At Hickstead, the pair won their trail round but placed second in the final.
At the 1965 Ladies World Championships, Marion and Stroller reigned supreme once again. Two years later they returned once again to Hickstead and emerged triumphant, grabbing the world’s attentions with their unimaginable triumphs against all the odds for such a small pair.
Marion and Stroller traveled far and wide in their time together, including tours of continental Europe, a British team tour through the US and representing Great Britain in the Olympics. At the ripe old age of 20 Stroller performed as well as ever, carrying Marion to victory at the Hamburg Derby. Marion was the first woman to win the Hamburg Derby and Stroller the only Pony to ever do so. Stroller enjoyed a long, well-deserved retirement and lived to the age of 36.
During their career, the pair competed against the world’s best riders, riding on horses that were often three or more hands higher. This incredible team serves as a great reminder to us all that it is not always the size or breeding of the horse that counts, but the connection between the horse and rider. With a dream, determination, and dedication, anything is possible.
Till next time, may the horse be with you!