John Ayres – an industry Champion

John Ayres and his family celebrating one of Victory Gunner's many wins
One of many wins for Victory Gunner, pictured here after winning the Evening Post Handicap Chase for owner John Ayres at Chepstow in January, 2008. From left are jockey Lee Stephens, head lass Lisa Mason, John, Bridget (John’s wife), Charlotte (John’s daughter) and her husband Nick Jeremiah.


John Ayres, co-founder and chairman of Champion Manufacturing Ltd and Finest Brands International, passed away on the morning of the 4th of June, following a courageous battle with cancer.

John was a true gentleman that was loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. His death is an enormous loss to the equestrian industry and wider community and all the staff at Champion feel privileged for having worked for such an amazing man, who always made work feel like a pleasure.

Born on the 15th of October 1952, John was a Cardiff man born and bred. His knowledge of and passion for horses was immense, his love of racing and equestrian sports and genuine affection for the animals themselves was at the heart of everything he did.

Few individuals have made more of a contribution to the equestrian industry than John. Together with his wife Bridget, they started their very first mail order saddlery business from home over 40 years ago and have since set up a number of equine based businesses, with their love of riding and concern for safety leading to the creation of Champion. Dedicated to supporting British manufacturing and with an unfaltering and continual pursuit of quality, through the Champion brand John has been a driving force in the design and development of protective riding wear for over three decades. Under his stewardship, Finest Brands International has grown into one of the most respected organisations in the industry, with the Toggi and Champion brands now recognised as household names in equestrian circles.

The Champion brand is chosen and trusted by riders of all levels and ambitions, from Olympians to pleasure riders and nothing made John prouder than to see the mud spattered face of legends such as Ruby or Katie Walsh, Choc Thornton, Christian Williams or Micheal Nolan grinning at him from the television screen with the word “Champion” emblazoned on the front of their crash skulls! On hearing of John’s death, Ruby himself commented “John was always far more interested in the state and condition of my brain than I was, but its thanks to him and his Champion helmets that I have one that’s fully intact. Thanks John. RIP.”

John loved what he did and remained in work throughout his cancer treatment, working until the day before he passed away. A genuine ‘people person’, John always put his family, friends and the many people that worked for him first and he will be desperately missed by all those that had the pleasure to know him.

A memorial service was held for John on Friday the 21st June at Chepstow racecourse, the perfect location for a fitting tribute to John and his life-long love of racing. The many hundreds of people who turned out in celebration of his life was testimony to the fact that he touched so many hearts, in all corners of the world. What was undoubtedly an incredibly sad day was turned into a celebration of the life of a man loved by many, respected by all and whose premature death is an enormous loss to the equestrian industry, his family and all those who knew him.
His legacy will live on.

John was a fantastically generous man and always put the needs of others before his own. He was a dedicated supporter of a number of worthy causes and charities and in lieu of flowers John and his family requested that donations be made instead to two charities particularly close to their hearts: The Injured Jockeys Fund and Tenovus Cancer Charity. To support either of these causes simply go to

WIN Toggi gear from the new Black Collection

WIN fun and fabulous gear from the NEW  Toggi Black Collection, with Champion and The Pony Club!

Here at Champion, rider safety is our number one priority and we are proud to be a long-time supporter of the Pony Club, helping young riders have lots of fun with their horses and ponies whilst staying safe and protected. We are delighted to join with our sister brand Toggi and the Pony Club to give you the opportunity to set your summer off in style as you could win fab gear from this gorgeous range!

The dazzling Toggi Black Collection is a fun and fabulous new range which is perfect for whether you’re having horsey fun at the yard or simply hanging out with your friends around town.

In association with the Pony Club, we’re giving you the opportunity to set your summer off in style as two lucky winners will win a fab outfit from the Toggi Black Collection, with two runners up winning a super cool Melody satchel and matching purse!


Competition entry form


Terms & Conditions

  • NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT NECESSARY TO WIN and no prize alternative offered
  • Open to residents of the UK and Ireland only
  • One entry per person only
  • Closing date for entries is the 17th July 2013
  • The winners will be selected at random from all entrants
  • Our decision is final and the winner will be informed by email on 22nd July 2013


New – Vanguard and Freedom body protectors Bespoke design for ladies only!


Piggy French, Kitty King and Pippa Funnell wearing Champion hats and body protectors
Piggy French, Kitty King and Pippa Funnell wearing the new Champion Vanguard and Freedom body protectors

By introducing superlative flexibility into a design that offers a fit especially tailored for the female figure, without compromising protection and safety, we believe we have designed our most comfortable body protector to date. This exceptional comfort is offered by a darted and tailored bust design, a slim and sculptured underarm for a close contact fit, and a broad shoulder panel with enhanced weight distribution.

However the benefits of the Freedom and Vanguard don’t stop there. Our team of designers have come up with a revolutionary multi layered “Cut-Flex®” manufacturing process to maximise the body protectors Ultra light foams flexibility. In conjunction with this a new “HingeTek®” system has been incorporated into the tail of both the Freedom and Vanguard which allows the bottom of the protector to mould into the nape of the lower back which gives an unparalleled fit when the rider is in contact with the saddle. And by utilising a high-tech Polygiene treated inner lining with its powerful anti-bacterial and anti-odour properties, we have ensured that the Champion Freedom and Vanguard will stay fresh 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Both the Freedom and Vanguard offer all these excellent features and benefits and the difference between them is simple. The Vanguard Body Protector is a Tabard design while the Freedom incorporates a zipped front for ease of fitting while dressed for riding. To ensure that the Freedom offers similar levels of adjustability as the Vanguard, 4 elasticated side straps have been incorporated into the design, for great adjustment and the perfect fit.

The Freedom and Vanguard are available in 6 sizes: GL (Girls Large), GXL (Girls X-tra Large), WS (Women Small), WM (Women Medium), WL (Women Large) and WXL (Women X-tra Large) and they are they are available in 3 back lengths.

Pony European Championship Squad announced

The five riders selected to represent Great Britain at the 2013 Pony European Championships in Arezzo, Italy between 24 – 28 July are as follows:

Faye Adams, aged 15 years from Halesowen with her mother’s (Julie) 14 year-old chestnut mare Some Like It Hot.

Millie Allen, aged 15 years from Stockton-on-Tees with her father’s (Peter) 10 year-old  bay mare Song Girl.

Alex Gill, aged 15 years from Northallerton with Lynn Barker’s 9 year-old dark bay gelding Ammanvalley Santino.

Amy Inglis, aged 16 years from Haywards Heath, West Sussex with her mother’s (Claire) 14 year-old chesnut mare Lea du Genier,

Emily Ward, aged 14 years from Neston, Cheshire with her father’s (Nick) 8 year-old chestnut gelding King Mac.

Champion are delighted to support the youth teams and wish all the pony, junior, children and young rider teams the best of success at their Championships.

Further information about Arezzo and the competition schedule can be found by visiting     The Team competition takes place on the 26th July and the Individual Final on the 28th July.

Children, Junior & Young Rider European Championship Squads Announced

British Showjumping is pleased to announce the Team Fairfax Children, Junior and Young Rider European Championship Squads representing Great Britain at the forthcoming FEI Children, Junior and Young Rider European Jumping Championships, which will be held during the 16th – 21st July 2013 at Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. Champion is proud to support the British Show Jumping Youth Teams and wishes them all the best of luck at the Championships.


Maja Burnell aged 14 from Godalming, Surrey will partner Alan Burnell’s 9 year-old bay gelding, Zimza La Bim

Harry Charles aged 13 from Alton, Hampshire will partner Murka’s Milord D’Elle, a 13 year-old chestnut gelding owned by Peter Charles MBE

Will Edwards aged 13 from Ellesmere, Shropshire will partner R Candy, a 9 year-old chestnut mare jointly owned by Carl Edwards and Jane Lanni

Robert Murphy aged 13 from Preston, Lancashire will partner Del Fuego, a 10 year-old bay gelding owned by Catherine Witt

Olivia Poole aged 14 from Shrewsbury, Shropshire will partner Andorra, an 8 year-old dark bay mare owned by Robert Smith


Jessica Mendoza aged 17 from Chippenham, Wiltshire will partner Spirit T, a 12 year-old brown mare owned by John Roberts

Emma O’Dwyer aged 18 from Churchdown, Gloucestershire will partner Joanne O’Dwyer’s 10 year-old grey mare, Miss Tonic

Laura Robinson aged 18 from Northallerton, North Yorkshire will partner 14 year-old liver chestnut gelding, Cree Cruiser, jointly owned by Neil Robinson and Geoffrey Robinson

Jake Saywell aged 16 from Newark, Nottinghamshire will partner Andrew Saywell’s 8 year-old bay gelding, Farinelli Van De Zeshoek

James Shore aged 18 from Northwich, Cheshire will partner Vitales, an 11 year-old dark bay gelding owned by Max Hauri

Young Riders:

Pippa Allen aged 19 from Stockton-on-Tees will partner Peter Allen’s 9 year-old bay gelding, Cupido Z

Chloe Aston aged 18 from Tring, Hertfordshire will partner Quiet Easy 4, a 9 year-old chestnut gelding owned by Quainton Stud

Abbe Burchmore-Eames aged 20 from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire will partner Jack Eames’ 9 year-old bay gelding Wilandri E

Jessie Drea aged 21 from Haywards Heath, West Sussex will partner Touchable, a 12 year-old chestnut mare owned by Lynne Humphries

Spencer Roe aged 20 from Lincoln, Lincolnshire will partner Sally Roe’s 9 year-old bay gelding Wonder Why

The squads will start leaving for the Championships on Monday 8th July 2013 and when they arrive will spend time settling their horses into the stables prior to the first horse inspections.

Competition starts on Wednesday 17th July for all three age groups with Team medals being decided on Friday 19th July and Individual medals on Sunday 21st July.

A total of 47 Nations across Europe have been invited to contest the Championships and Great Britain will compete under the guidance of Chef d’Equipe and Team Coach Corinne Bracken.

The British Youth teams are sponsored by Fairfax Saddles. It is Fairfax’s primary aim to improve the performance of the competition horse. All the saddles and girths are developed using the most advanced technology and are tested extensively. All research and design work is carried out under the direction of Vanessa Fairfax, an ex-International showjumper and University qualified designer. The company is based in Walsall and manufactures all its own products. For more information, please visit

The GB Showjumping Teams are strongly supported by the UK Sport Lottery funded BEF World Class Programme. The teams are further supported by Animo UK, Champion Hats, Next and Toggi.

For further information on the Championships and results once the competition is underway, please visit