It was an emotional cross-country round for young rider Shannon Stratton at the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships today (Sunday, 28 May) — she is riding her “horse of a lifetime” at his final competition.

“I was in tears crossing the finish line,” says Shannon. “Knowing it was my last time going across country with him.”

The Yorkshire-based rider decided the H&H Championships would be 17-year-old Just Handy’s swansong after he bounced back from a year off.

“I saw this event and thought it would be a perfect way to finish ‘Andy’ before he retires,” explains Shannon. “I’ve really enjoyed the atmosphere here.”

The pair is in good contention in the 70cm class after posting a 33.75 dressage score yesterday followed by a clear round across country — ahead of tomorrow’s showjumping final phase.

“He flew round the cross-country. He was getting excited in the start box, however, as soon as we started I didn’t have to do anything — I just sat there,” she adds.

“I have ridden him for seven years, he was my first horse and he has taught me so much. I have taken him affiliated eventing up to BE100, hunted him and done some showing.”

However, the Irish-bred gelding had to have a year off after sustaining an injury on the gallops.

“The vets had no idea what he had done, but he was really lame and they didn’t think he’d go across country again. He had a year in the field — that was the hardest thing, not being able to ride him at all.”

The 21-year-old has recently moved from Suffolk up to Yorkshire, where her boyfriend works for a hunt kennels. ‘Andy’ will enjoy his retirement in Suffolk with Shannon’s mother.

We will never sell him — my mum will hack him out and he’ll teach her too,” says Shannon.

Don’t miss the full report from the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships in H&H — on sale Thursday, 8 June.