The Cups runneth over for the family that operates Sherwood Farm in Ridgeville, Ontario. Marilyn Lee and her daughter Robin Hannah-Carlton’s Canadian Sport Horse, Drumroll, won both the Governor General’s and Lieutenant Governor’s Cups while their pony, Arnaby Hulla-Bo-Lou, was also a double winner in the inaugural Pony Cup classes at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Horse Show in Toronto earlier this month.

“Did we think we might win? We were hopeful. Did we think it would be reality? That’s a pretty big question,” says Hannah-Carlton.

Drumroll is only the second horse the mother and daughter have developed as a Cup horse – the first was Paramour (Avanwhit Stables President x Bonnie Tucker) 17 years ago. Drumroll, known as Clover at home, was sired by Beaulieu’s Crescendo (Beaulieu’s Conquest x Sonata Z) and out of a Thoroughbred dam, Mathilda.

“We bred Crescendo and Drumroll is his only offspring,” says Hannah-Carlton. “He was a bit of a handful as a stallion, so we gelded him and he became a performance horse. We had bred him to Mathilda and another mare we had, but the other mare lost her foal.”

Lee says Mathilda (by Compadre 90), with Northern Dancer lines, was to be her uncle’s racing prospect. However, she never made it to the track and the uncle gifted the mare to Robin and her sister Jacalyn. “We’ve had her for 17 years and she’s had a number of foals. She’s drop-dead gorgeous with Northern Dancer lines and throws really nice foals. We’ve bred a few, but we’re not horse breeders. We are more hunter-jumper show people.”

Hannah-Carlton says her mother decided when Drumroll was a yearling that he had Cup potential. “He never went through an awkward, gangly phase [even though he’s grown to 17 hands]. We like our young horses to live in the field and he did for a long time. Scott Carmichael started him under saddle for us earlier this year and was over-the-moon excited about him.”

Hannah-Carlton is good friends with Erynn Ballard and knows her father, Dave. “Dave said ‘I won the Cup three times, how would you like me to win a fourth?’ When he saw Drumroll, he thought he was really beautiful. Drumroll also has perfect balance. When I ride him, he feels like a five-year-old.”

Sherwood Farm (Hannah-Carlton’s husband Rob is also part of the operation) has bought several ponies over the years from breeder Diane Jackson of Arnaby Farm and bought Hulla-Bo-Lou (Rotherwood Bo Jangle x Coedendderw Dancing Queen) as a yearling sight unseen after seeing a photo of him trotting.

“We didn’t meet him until his first show that Diane took him to,” says Hannah-Carlton. “He won every class as a yearling and qualified for the Royal.” Although he hasn’t shown much, he was champion half-Welsh at the Royal last year.


Group of people standing with a bay pony.

The Pony Cup presenters with (from left) Diane Jackson, Robin Hannah, Abby Banis (rider) Rachel Jaeger, Marilyn Lee-Hannah and ‘Louie’. (Ben Radvanyi photo)

“He doesn’t like to not win. He knows he’s special,” she says of the flashy bay pony. At the two Cup qualifiers leading up to the Royal, ‘Louie’ placed second in the in-hand classes at the first qualifier, and second in hand and seventh under saddle at the second. “He only got started under saddle this summer and was naughty being ridden at the second qualifier. He’s pretty special and we were really hopeful.” Louie kept his cool under the big lights of the Royal’s Coliseum to show off for judge Rachel Kennedy, handled by Dave Ballard and ridden in the under-saddle portion by Sherwood’s ‘pony pro’ Abby Banis.

The Pony Cup was a pilot project this year, launched under the auspices of the Canadian Sport Horse Association to celebrate the quality of ponies being bred in Canada in a format that follows the same criteria as the sport horse Cup classes. The 10 ponies with the highest scores from two qualifiers were eligible for the Royal. To be eligible, ponies had to be born and registered in Canada.

“There are a lot of good pony breeders in Ontario, including Diane Jackson, and they are as nice as any ponies I’ve seen anywhere,” Hannah-Carlton says. “People don’t have to go to the US or Europe to buy. We have the quality here.”

Now that both of the newly minted Cup winners are home at Sherwood Farm, they’ll have down time over the winter. Hannah-Carlton doesn’t like to put much pressure on four-year-olds, so they’ll do some local shows and get introduced to small jumps before embarking on more serious show careers. “We had people begging to buy them, but they are going to enjoy some stress-free time.”

Although there was a two-decade gap between their first Cup prospect and this year’s, Lee and her daughter already are making plans for the next two years. They have a beautiful up-and-coming prospect, Arnaby Bo-Couture (also by Louie’s sire Rotherwood Bo Jangle) for the Pony Cup, should this year’s pilot be carried on, and a filly out of Drumroll’s dam and by Ritz Carlton that will be a 2025 Cup prospect.