Nigel Oakley, tireless protector and promoter of the Suffolk Punch horse and Eleanor Jones, the indefatigable Horse & Hound journalist with a passion for equine welfare, were announced as the joint winners of the Sir Colin Spedding Award at yesterday’s National Equine Forum (NEF) on 5th March 2020.

Nigel Oakley is dedicated to the cause of safeguarding and promoting the Suffolk Punch horse, including owning, breeding, training, working and showing the horses, as well as being a Heavy Horse Ambassador for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Married with two sons and a daughter Nigel ran his own Civil Engineering Geotechnical Company for forty years. Having always had an interest in the Suffolk horse, when time and finances allowed, he started his own stud. During the past 40 years he has bred 34 foals of his own and around 15 for other people. Currently he has nine Suffolk Punches, working them on the farm, ploughing through to cutting the corn with the binder. 

Nigel has been a trustee of the Suffolk Horse Society for around 35 years and is a past President. He is also on the Executive Committee, and Breeding Committee and is Chairman of the Spectacular Committee. He carries out training days for the Suffolk Horse Society at home and teaches equine driving to both urban and rural certification standard, both pairs and singles.  He has been involved in five Countryfile programmes and the horses have been used regularly for films and country show displays.  The Suffolk horse is a Category One rare breed and he supports the RBST by carrying out presentations at county agricultural shows.

Nigel said: “The Suffolk horse is my passion and I am delighted to have won The Sir Colin Spedding Award in recognition of my work to safeguard this magnificent breed.”

Eleanor Jones, a conscientious and skillful journalist for Horse & Hound, has covered many important welfare-led stories, giving them a strong voice across the equine sector.  By spreading the word in this way, she has helped significantly to change perceptions and to improve equine welfare.

Eleanor joined Horse & Hound as news editor in March 2016, having spent eight and a half years working for local and national newspapers. During her time with the magazine, Eleanor has reported from numerous industry conferences and events, including the FEI sport forum, the British Equine Veterinary Association annual congress and the National Equine Forum, and has reported on all disciplines and aspects of the industry, from Brexit to anti-bullying campaigns and from dressage rules to dressage mules. She spent time travelling across Europe with World Horse Welfare to see first-hand the experience of horses being transported thousands of miles to slaughter, producing reports for print, online and in video format, and has also reported on showjumping events from national qualifiers to international grands prix.

Through her journalism Eleanor has championed the welfare of the horse, be that through articles looking at obesity as a welfare issue in horses or tackling the subject of rider weight as a welfare issue, which she has managed with great sensitivity. Her approach is as passionate — horses are her life as well as her work — as it is professional. Eleanor works weekends and all hours to get the job done in a way that is satisfactory to her high standards.

Eleanor said: “Even to have my name put forward for this award was a huge honour; I’m delighted to have won, and in such incredibly worthy company. This is down to the amazingly hard-working team at Horse & Hound and if what we’ve done has improved the welfare of any horse, pony, donkey or mule, that means the world.”

The Sir Colin Spedding Award was introduced in 2013 in Sir Colin’s memory. It is presented annually to an exceptional unsung hero or heroine of the equestrian world. Any individual or organisation from any equestrian field in the UK is eligible, as long as their outstanding qualities have not been formally acknowledged elsewhere.

Previous recipients of the award are: Gordon Wesley an all-round champion of the equestrian cause (2019), Dr Simon Curtis, FWCF a practicing farrier in Newmarket, Suffolk  (2018), Jim Green, pioneer of equine rescue methodology and training (2017), Sue Martin BHSII who runs Trent Park Equestrian Centre (2016), Paul Greeves former Executive Director and Keeper of the General Stud Book at Weatherbys (2015), Dr Andrew Waller on behalf of the Animal Health Trust (AHT) Infectious Diseases Group (2014) and Martin Clunes on behalf of UK Equine Welfare Charities (2013).

Picture (L to R): Eleanor Jones (Winner, Sir Colin Spedding Award), HRH The Princess Royal, Nigel Oakley (Winner, Sir Colin Spedding Award)

Picture courtesy of Craig Payne Photography