Legendary show jumper Baloubet Du Rouet has been retired by his owner Diogo Pereira Coutinho and Brazilian rider Rodrigo Pessoa.

The 19-year-old Selle Francais — described on one fan site as “having the agility of a cat and the strength of a lion” — won the hearts of many with his high spirits in the ring.

However, his fiery stallion demeanour worked against him at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when, after jumping consistently clear all week to win team bronze, he racked up an unexpected 36 faults in the individual final and was eliminated.

Baloubet and Pessoa took individual gold in Athens in 2004 when Waterford Crystal, the ride of Cian O’Connor, who was first awarded the medal, failed a drugs test. They won the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) show jumping World Cup a record three times — in 1998, 1999 and 2000 — narrowly missing out in 2001 to Markus Fuchs and Tinkas Boy.

He won the Las Vegas World Invitational grand prix in 2005 and first prize at the Budweiser Invitational in Florida the following year, as well as the prestigious FEI/Gandini Top 10 Final in 2003 and 2005.

Tim Stockdale, who has jumped against the pair many times over the years, described Baloubet as “the ultimate show jumper”.

“He was the real deal and his athleticism was second to none,” he added. “He could turn like a pony and gallop like a racehorse, and had the most fabulous brain — he made the impossible seem possible.”

Baloubet showed his class at a young age, when ridden by Nelson Pessoa on the French circuit, including winning the seven-year-old stallion test at Fontainebleau.

However, the stallion became most competitive when he became the mount of Nelson’s son, Rodrigo, as a nine-year-old.

Baloubet has sired a number of promising progeny — including Balou Grande Z (winner of the 30-day stallion test in 2002 at Neustadt-Dosse) and Balou Du Rouet — and will continue to stand for Linalux in Belgium.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (7 February, ’08)