‘A very hard, sad decision’: Farewell to former top-level eventer

  • Former top-level eventer Rathmoyle King has been put down at the age of 21 after sustaining an injury.

    The impressive grey was ridden and produced from a four-year-old by Carolyne Ryan Bell and was owned throughout his career by Carolyne, Jinks Morris Adams and Carolyn Taylor.

    He recorded a top-10 finish at Badminton in 2010 and was also long-listed for the London Olympics in 2012.

    “Smartie” retired from top-level competition in 2014, after pulling up with an injury on the cross-country at Burghley, but returned to a successful career as a schoolmaster for young riders.

    He was competed first by Chloe Rodriguez at under-18 and under-21 novice and intermediate and then by Joshua Levett, son of Australian eventer Bill. This year they competed at under-18 novice level and finished second on their final run at Oasby.

    “He ran beautifully this year,” said Carolyne. “We spent a long time deciding what was the right thing to do and it was a very hard and sad decision.”

    Carolyne bought the son of Furisto Diamond from a dealer in the Cotswolds and he attracted admiration throughout his career.

    “One year I was at Badminton and Pippa Funnell was commentating and she said ‘if there was a horse I wanted to ride cross country today it would be him’. It was a lovely comment and it sat in my heart,” she said.

    “Smartie” also earned a fan in Andrew Nicholson, who picked up a ride on him at Saumur CIC2* (now CCI3*-S), finishing fifth, and Lumhulen CCI 4* (now CCI5*), finishing sixth, in 2013.

    “I had a broken collarbone that wouldn’t heal and Andrew took him round having hardly sat on him,’ Carolyne said. “I don’t think I ever saw Andrew smile so much, he came off the cross country beaming.”

    Carolyne first rose to prominence with her “cross-county machine” Hooray Henry, but described Smartie as “the first horse I had who was brilliant in all three phases.”

    “He was tricky, in Ireland they say that a lot of the Furistos are, but he was a great horse across the board,” she said.

    “In the early days, I was training with Judy Bradwell on the flat and she said he could have been a grand prix dressage horse. When I was training with Yogi they’d say ‘he could be a showjumper’. I’d say ‘thank you but he really likes his cross-country as well!’”

    The 16.2hh gelding won 754 points in his eventing career and was unlucky to have never taken a major win.

    “He was a spectacular jumper who never came away with a scratch, he’d never drag a leg or leave a knee,” Carolyne said.

    “My out and out favourite round was the one I fell off in! It was 2011 round Badminton and I was having a blinder, he was so fit and well and had done a really good test.

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    “I was starting to grin towards the end of the course as we approached Huntsman’s Close, where there was a white hanging gate coming in. He always had an incredibly powerful jump and instead of just popping it like you should, he jumped it enormously and went careering off towards the string.

    “I was then late on my line to a bounce of bullfinches — he saw a big brush and jumped it so big and then went ‘sugar, there’s another jump’. He landed very tight to the second one and launched himself up and I was launched off the side like Frankie Dettori.

    “I have to say after that one I threw my whip on the ground, it was such an absolute shame and I was only three fences from home.”

    Carolyne, who has another two horses by the same stallion at home, added that she would be “for ever grateful” to Smartie and the journey he gave her and his owners throughout the grades.

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