Popular former 4-star eventer dies aged 33

  • Carolyne Ryan-Bell has lost her grand old campaigner Hooray Henry II, who was 33 years old.

    A fantastic cross-country horse, he completed Badminton 5 times in the 1990s. In both 1996 and 1998 he won the Glentrool Trophy for the biggest improvement on dressage placing.

    “I owned him for 31 years — it’s every girl’s dream to take their horse from Pony Club to Badminton,” said Carolyne. “I failed my Pony Club B test on him!”

    Hooray Henry’s British Eventing (BE) career spanned more than 20 years, from 1985 to 2006. He competed at advanced for 10 years, contesting his first 4-star at Burghley in 1991, where Carolyne remembers him being the only horse to jump the infamous sunken road in one.

    He was entered for Badminton in 1992 and 1993, but injury and then wait-listing meant he didn’t get there until 1994, when he was 14. His best Badminton placing was 15th in 1999 when he was 19, while he was 11th at Burghley in 1995.

    “He was notorious for his massive jump and taking strides out, but he had self-preservation and was such a crowd pleaser, a show-off with amazing presence,” said Carolyne. “He was hugely intelligent and never liked being at the back of a group. He was competitive, even in his twilight years, and was constantly jumping 5-bar gates and fence lines when he was turned out.

    “There really wasn’t anything I thought he couldn’t jump, such was my trust and faith in him. He had such a good eye for a stride himself and never had a horse fall.”

    While Carolyne was competing as an amateur he won 6 intermediates in a row in 1989, and she remembers beating Ian Stark twice as a highlight. He was among the 1st horses to gain over 1000 BE points.

    Hooray Henry was retired from 4-star in 1999, but continued to compete at advanced in 2000. Because of his “addiction to competitive life”, he then helped many young riders and amateurs fulfil eventing dreams at the lower levels. His last competition was a pre-novice at Broadway in 2006 with Carolyne.

    “He was 26 and came 4th — the dressage judge said he had lots of potential!” said Carolyne.

    “Until only 3 months ago he was always included in the yard routine, whether it was nursing a young horse out hacking or cantering up the gallops giving the young ones a run for their money or lungeing to keep him supple.

    “He enjoyed a yearly outing to Weston Park in April until he was 31 which gave him a purpose and made him feel special, riding around with my great friend Debbie Crisp, who was his biggest fan.”

    Carolyne and her husband named their son Henry after the horse — he is now eight.

    “He was such a part of the family that — as long as my husband didn’t see — he was allowed to free roam and graze the garden,” said Carolyne. “When he finally stopped jumping out of the fields he then learnt how to open gates by himself so that he could come and go as he pleased.

    “There are lots of cliches one can use to describe such a wonderful unique horse and partnership — he certainly shaped my world.”

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