David recalls his ride at the 1969 European Show Jumping Championships

Mister Softee and I were in third place as the final day of the European Championships at Hickstead dawned in 1969. I knew that if I took the last leg we could win.

I had been riding Mister Softee for about three years by that point and I knew him pretty well. He must have been 15 or 16. He was a cool horse, but sharp in his reactions. He was very quick with a wonderful technique, his front end just disappeared and that’s what made him so efficient over a fence.

There were two rounds left to be jumped, both against the clock. The first round was over 18 jumps – the first six fences made up the speed element, the second part comprised six puissance-style fences and the last six were Nations Cup fences.

In the first round, Mister Softee went clear. Eighteen fences against the clock is a lot of jumps at European level, but he jumped fantastically.

When I was in the collecting ring between rounds, Andrew Massarella asked me if I was nervous and I remember holding out my hand and it was steady as a rock.

In the second round they took the puissance section out and Mister Softee jumped clear again, putting us into the lead. The two Germans who had been ahead of me at the beginning of the day, Hans Winkler and Alvin Schockem”hle, finished up second and third overall.

The pace that Mister Softee went, and his accuracy, was amazing; he was unbeatable in that final. I said at the time that people were very lucky to see him jumping that day – and I meant it.

He was a wonderful horse to ride in a high-pressure situation against the clock. He rose to the occasion and was absolutely out of this world. He never put a foot wrong; we just pulverised the opposition.

He was a very honest horse who always gave his best.

  • In this week’s Horse & Hound (14 March) David Pope talks about the ride of his life, when driving The Queen Mother to Royal Ascot. Click here to subscribe.