Popular four-star horse Midnight Dazzler, ridden by Harry Meade, has been retired aged 20.

Midnight Dazzler had been due to contest his sixth Badminton this weekend, but a minor injury has ruled him out.

Harry, 26, said: “‘Bobby’ was, as usual, raring to go and our preparation had been going very well. He had some heat in a hind joint and was forced to miss some work. He’s sound but it’s not worth risking further injury, especially considering his age.”

The son of Catherston Dazzler will enjoy his retirement with his owners, the Lissacks, in Wiltshire.

Midnight Dazzler has been with Harry for the past seven seasons, having previously been ridden by Katie Parker, Darrell Scaife and William Fox-Pitt.

He has completed Burghley four times and Badminton five times and became known for his fast, smooth cross-country rounds. His best results were 10th at Badminton 2009 and eighth at Burghley 2007 with Harry.

Unpromising start

However, the start of Midnight Dazzler and Harry’s partnership in 2003 was less promising.

“He had a history of being difficult in the dressage and an erratic jumper, and was relegated to me as I was a young rider at the time.” explains Harry. “Several people advised me not to ride him, but I had very few horses and was desperate to rise to the challenge.

“At Chatsworth [2005] we had three falls in a single competition. He bucked me off getting on before the dressage, and when being led into the start box he reared over backwards. I got back on, started and then had a crashing fall on the cross-country. A month later we went to Luhmühlen and had another fall in the water.”

However, after completing their first Badminton together in 2006, Harry and Midnight Dazzler never had another cross-country jumping fault. In all, they completed seven four-stars together and finished in the top 25 at all of them.

The horse’s Badminton completion in 2009 (pictured), aged 19, meant he equalled Hooray Henry II and Over To You’s record as the oldest horses to complete the event.

Parting from a friend

“I’ll remember him for the wonderful cross-country rounds we had together,” says Harry. “He became very consistent and a real athlete.

“He has taught me a lot about training sensitive or difficult horses, you need patience to get them to work with you. You go through extreme highs and lows, but when you find the key to them you feel you have a bond.

“When I took him on he was a difficult 13-year-old with leg troubles. It’s makes me smile to look back on what he’s achieved between the age of 15 and 20. He’s had a great innings and is fit and well to enjoy his retirement, but it feels like parting from a friend, I’ll miss him badly. Trying to find a horse to replace him is a tall order.”

Carolyn Lissack, Midnight Dazzler’s owner and breeder, said: “Harry treats the horse like the special individual he is. He doesn’t try to put a square horse through a round hole and he and Bobby fit together so well. I am confident that Harry loves him as much as I do, they were a true partnership. I knew that someone would get that out of him and I am so glad it was Harry.”