Three-time Burghley winner Avebury has been withdrawn from Badminton and retired from competition.
Ridden by Andrew Nicholson and owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow, the popular 16-year-old horse has accumulated a huge 2,113 British Eventing points during his career.
Rosemary explained the decision was made as “old age had begun to catch up with him”.
“This is a day we were all dreading,” she said.
“He has served us so well and after his last gallop he wasn’t showing his normal exuberance and zest for life.
“Sadly old age has begun to catch up with him, and he deserves a well-earned rest.”
Avebury is the only horse to have won the Lincolnshire four-star three times (2012-2014) and Barbury Castle CIC3* four times.
“Avebury is a horse of a lifetime and owes us nothing,” added Rosemary.
“Sometimes in his younger years he could be a little bit naughty, but he has been a complete joy to own.”
The grey gelding, known as “Buddy” — a nickname given to him as a foal by Andrew’s daughters Rebecca and Melissa — has won at every FEI level.
Over his career, he ran 71 times with Andrew and 11 with his wife, Wiggy, who competed him at novice level.
During that time he won 27 times and was placed on numerous occasions.
“Mark and I would like to thank Andrew and Wiggy and all the staff at Westwood for looking after him so well over the past 10 years,” said Rosemary.
“Avebury will continue to live at Westwood — a home he knows and loves.”
The son of Jumbo was bred and broken in by Andrew, who then sold him as a showjumper. Wiggy then bought him back as a six-year-old.
“Rosemary Barlow wanted a new horse, so I said to her that I thought I knew of one,” said Andrew.
“Wiggy went away for a few days, so I sneaked him up to the gallops to see what he could do. I was quite impressed, so I suggested Rosemary bought him for me to ride.”
In their first season together in 2007, Andrew and Avebury won the CCI* at Tattersalls and three intermediate classes, as well as finishing second in the British Novice Championships at Gatcombe and fourth in the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers.
Their partnership went from strength to strength and they went on to rack up wins in the CCI2* at Tattersalls, CCI3* at Saumur as well as a second place in the CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim.
They also completed Badminton three times, with their highest placing being 10th at the 2011 event.
“He’s part of the family, and will stay here with us. Wiggy will ride him, and no doubt my daughter Lily will put her name down for a go,” added the Kiwi eventer.
“He’s sound and well; he just doesn’t quite feel like he used to and, as he owes us nothing, we thought it better to stop now.”
Avebury’s only run this year was at Great Witchingham in March and, fittingly, he won.
“He has a cheeky side to him, but whenever you walk into the yard, he’s happy to see you,” said Andrew.
“He loves his work and is very bubbly about everything. He’s still naughty to catch in the field — he gallops around squealing, but as soon as it rains, or he thinks something might be happening without him, he runs up and down the fence line yelling to be brought in.”
- Burghley 2014: Andrew Nicholson does the hat-trick with Avebury
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- Andrew Nicholson sets his sights on Badminton
Avebury’s withdrawal from Badminton still leaves Andrew with the one ride — Nereo — in the Gloucestershire event.
“Avebury has been an exceptional performer,” he said.
“He loves a big atmosphere and shows off in it, and has always been a brilliant jumper and galloper.
“He has always been a winner, and I have to thank him for some of the greatest days of my career.”