It was tears all round as Lou Wega finished his intermediate I test this afternoon with Fiona Brennan.

Many will know the horse as both Judy Harvey’s former small tour ride, and a European young rider team horse with Abigail Slater.

But ‘Louis’ is contesting his last national championships and will fully retire upon his return home to Judy’s Buckinghamshire base.

Owned by Richard Heley, who also owns Judy’s former grand prix horse Fitzcerraldo, the 18-year-old by Lamoureux II is on his thirteenth visit to Stoneleigh.

“He’s going to retire in the field now; it will be so strange not riding him,” says Fiona, who has worked for Judy for the past four-and-a-half years. She took up the ride in 2012 as there was “no one else to ride him”.

“Every day he gives me the most incredible feeling. Then at shows he steps it up another gear and there’s no stopping him. He’s so bouncy. He’s quite lazy so it was really hard to keep him forward at first,” she says.

“He’s not the most flashy, but he’s taught me how to ride a test; all about preparing and setting up. He’s shaped my whole approach.”

“We never expected him to get back up to this level after stepping down from young riders. Competing at Hartpury CDI in 2015 was definitely one of the highlights of our time together; getting the flag [awarded for representing your country] was something I always wanted to do.”

Retiring on a high

The pair scored 63.26% today, and Fiona was “delighted” with him.

“It was so emotional,” she says, with tears in her eyes again.

“I just wanted to do him justice — we have such a good partnership now. We had a couple of mistakes, but he wouldn’t be him if we didn’t. He takes charge sometimes, which is a bit embarrassing!”

He might be a total professional in the ring, but Louis is known for his bad behaviour at shows.

“He’s just fully disgraced himself hand-grazing!” Fiona sighs. “He’s getting worse as he gets older – leaping and bucking around.”

“He lights up at shows, he’s so happy. At home he’s the complete opposite; so chilled. But he’s still cheeky about everything — he’s naughty out hacking, he thinks it’s a barrel of laughs.”

“He is one of a kind,” she concludes. “He’s taught me everything.”

For a full report from the British Dressage national championships — including analysis, comment and insight — pick up a copy of Horse & Hound next Thursday, 22 September.