Matthew Wright has paid tribute to the homebred medal-winning eventer who helped launch his career.

Park Pilot, known as “Zippy”, died suddenly at home aged 24.

Bred by Matthew’s mother Jane, Zippy spent his whole life with the Wright family.

“I remember him being born,” said Matthew.

“I was about 11 or 12 and my dad came and fetched me down at about midnight — I watched him being born.”

He added as the family watched Zippy find his feet, his dad said: “When he is old enough to event properly, you will be old enough to compete him.”

The skewbald gelding, by Pie In The Sky and out of Jane’s thoroughbred hunter, took Matthew to the European Eventing Championships for young riders in 2002, where the combination won team silver and finished sixth individually.

“He was very sharp — you’d be going one direction one minute and suddenly he’d spin round and you’d be going the other way,” said Matthew.

“At Chatsworth one year he saw the crowd on the top of the hill at fence four, spun round and took me back to fence two.”

The pair went on to finish 13th at the 2005 senior Europeans at Blenheim and were rarely out of the top 10 at national and international events.

Their achievements together included second place at Blenheim CCI3* in 2004, wins in the CIC3* World Cup qualifier at Ballindenisk in 2006, Tattersalls CCI2* in 2009 as well as numerous national classes at intermediate and advanced level.

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Matthew added that the Tattersalls win was particularly special as it followed a lengthy break from competition.

“After Badminton [in 2006], he wasn’t quite right and it took us three years [to get him back],” said Matthew.

Mum looked after him his whole life and it was her that got him back. I had the easy job of riding him, but mum looked after him.

“He was the horse of a lifetime for us.”

Zippy retired from competition in 2012 and enjoyed an active life at home, hacked out by Jane several times a week.

On the evening he died, they heard some banging in the yard and rushed out to see what was happening and found Skippy had sustained a suspected heart attack.

“He was a great horse,” said Matthew

“I got there just as he was going — I saw him into the world and saw him out of the world — I gave him a pat and said ‘thank you’.”

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