Lucinda Fredericks tells H&H about her fondest memories of Headley Britannia after she had to be put down earlier this month following an accident cross-country schooling.

1. First triumph
Our first event together was an intermediate at Aldon in 2002. Brit jumped so big over the viaduct into the first water that I managed to dislocate my thumb. I blew on it and smacked it back in on her neck and carried on. After we finished I had to go straight to hospital to see if it was broken. It was pretty amazing that we won the event despite me spending the cross-country trying to reposition my thumb. It was pretty disgusting.

2. Fighting spirit
After I got her home from Luhmühlen in 2005 Brit looked horrendous. She had lost weight, gone dull and didn’t want to do a thing. The vet came out and we decided to get her to hospital straight away. Unfortunately it was the same day as Paul Tapner’s wedding. She was on death’s door for 3 weeks with a virus and the vets said it would take her at least 6 months to recover. When we got her home she went out in a field behind the house and I had to dress up in white suit to touch her. But within 2 weeks she was running up and down the filed like spring Lamb. 3 weeks later she was jumping around an advanced intermediate at Highclere. The vets were pretty adamant that it would take her months to recover but she always told us what she wanted. She was so tough.

3. Technical brilliance
Her dressage at the Olympics in 2008 was outstanding. She did her test on the first morning of the first day and she led the dressage beating some incredible horse. For a horse that really didn’t move that well to see all the 10s come up for her flying changes was incredible. I am so proud of what we produced that day on a technical level. She gave me everything.

4. Biggest win
At Kentucky in 2009 I had planned to put 6 strides in before the big hedge into the water but Brit picked up on 4 and sprung into the lake. It completely put me off my line for the next fence so I had to make a big loop and take the alternative. When we came out of the lake we were 24 seconds down on the clock. Apparently all the riders watching back at the start said, “there is no way she is going to make up the time”. The last 4.5m of that course was the most exhilarating ride or my lift. I think it was the best I have ever ridden because I didn’t hook at all. She came in on time pulling my arms out. She came out the next day and looked great. I jumped the first cross-pole and she just felt right. I thought she would jump clear and she did. It was my best win with her.

5. Mother’s pride
My daughter Ellie first rode Brit when we stopped over in Aachen in 2009 when she was five. I got on Ben Along Time and she rode Brit and we trotted and cantered around the main dressage arena. Some of the most special memories that I have are of Ellie riding her. She did her first hunter trial on Brit last Autumn and rode her at various lecture demos. Everyone might I have thought I was mad but I 100% trusted Brit. She was a lady and her motherly instinct came out in how she looked after Ellie. The fact that she could go from being a Pony Club pony to a four-star horse is what made her 1 in a million.

6. Saying goodbye
I am so grateful that I had those 10 minutes to say goodbye to Brit and thank her for everything. They were very special to me. She was a professional until the end. We always had to undo her bridle to take it off and right up until she was put to sleep she still wouldn’t let me touch her ears. I have been so touched by the responses I have had since her death and to see how much she meant to so many people. It is not just the number of people that have written but it’s the thought that has gone into what they have said. We had a great life together I will be eternally grateful to her.

Take a look back at Headley Britannia’s career in pictures

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (10 April 2014)