Bonza Puzzle had been due to compete in his 10th four-star at Badminton this year, but an injury sustained at Belton Horse Trials (16 May) put him out of contention and forced his retirement.
While in the showjumping warm-up at Belton, “Puzzle” incurred tendon damage in his near fore leg.
Matt was hopeful at first: “We had jumped about five practice fences, when he stumbled on landing. It was clear he wasn’t sound, but we were hopeful it was just an infected foot.”
Ten minutes later Matt knew things were more serious when Bonza Puzzle refused to put any weight on his leg.
“After he was given painkillers we took him straight to the vets, where he was scanned, which confirmed the tendon damage,” he said.
Bonza Puzzle has gained 1401 British Eventing points in his career and his best results included eighth at Badminton 2008 and ninth at Burghley 2006.
“He owes me nothing,” said Matt. “He’s had a brilliant career, but has been one of the unluckiest horses in the sport. We were on the reserve list for both the Athens and Beijing Olympics; that was the beginning of the end with the Australian team [Matt has since decided to change his nationality to British].”
Matt knew Bonza Puzzle was special from the moment he saw him.
He said: “He was originally bought off the racetrack by Paul Tapner, who became tired of being bucked off. But l saw he had serious potential and a heart of gold.”
Syndicate-owned Bonza Puzzle will be retired to the home of Tim and Anne Pople, along with former three-star eventer Slight Of Hand, once he has recovered from his injury.
Triple Olympian Matt has confidence in his own future.
“I have some great young horses coming through the ranks, but l could do with a four-star horse for next season!”