Reaching the very top takes time, so it’s not unusual to see horses in their mid-teens riding high in the international rankings. While maturity and experience can give these older mounts a winning edge, the inevitable “miles on the clock” after years on the competition circuit can take their toll. Yet some horses — like Lenamore — just seem to keep on going. Find out how

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Nickname: Ed

Age: 21

Height: 15.3hh

Sire: Sea Crest

Competitive career: Ed began eventing aged 5, completing 7 consecutive Badmintons and five Burghleys (winning in 2010). He represented New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games (WEG, 2006), the Hong Kong Olympics (2008) and 2012 Olympics — winning team bronze at London aged 19.

“When Ed arrived with us, as a 4-year-old, he looked like a hat-rack,” says owner Jane MacKinnon of the Irish draught-thoroughbred gelding.

“He had a very mixed-up brain, but he was beautifully put together and we could tell he had talent. He did two 3-day events a year, from 6 until he retired last year aged 20, and never had anything wrong with him.

“I think what helped was that we [Jane, her daughter Lexi and Ed’s rider Caroline Powell] were meticulous about getting him fit — we never took any shortcuts. He came home at the end of each season for a holiday. In mid-November we would start walking him on the road every day for up to an hour and a half, sometimes more, before he returned to Caroline in January.

“Ed was never fussy about his food and was far too good a doer, given half a chance. He was turned out every day, in all weathers, and he liked routine. The only thing he has had in latter years is a joint supplement. He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

“Ed was extraordinary,” agrees Caroline. “He was such a compact little unit and he knew how to look after himself — he realised his boundaries and limitations. We never overran him and his legs were well iced after competitions, but he never saw a vet for lameness issues.”

After retiring at the age of 20, Ed is still fit, well and raring to go. He will be out hunting next season.

The vet’s view: “Lenamore was a tough horse with good conformation, strong feet and an amazing ability to recover,” says New Zealand team vet Ollie Pynn. “It is unusual for a horse to last at that level, until that age, without major injury, but he was still going strong at the London Olympics.

“He was always prepared very well for events. He and Caroline made the cross-country look easy, which I’m sure will have helped his longevity.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (3 July 2014)

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