David Broome recalls the great Mister Softee: ‘the thrill of riding him is still with me’

  • The tremendous partnership between David Broome and Mister Softee began with a “right place, right time” moment at White City in the early 1960s and David’s impressions of the flashy chestnut were very promising from the start.

    “What a Christian of a horse,” David says, speaking in an interview on episode 43 of The Horse & Hound Podcast, currently supported by NAF.

    “I don’t think he ever had an evil move in him. He was as straight as a gun-barrel and he had a lovely technique. He had a very poor confirmation though and his back-end was very cow-hocked. If you’d been buying him in the fair or whatever as a four-year-old, I don’t think you’d have touched him with a barge pole because you’d never have thought his back-end would stand up to the wear and tear. But lo and behold it did!”

    In 1966, the pair really started making headlines, winning the Hickstead Derby and the King George V Gold Cup.

    “He was a horse for the big occasion,” says David. “It was 50-odd years ago now, but the thrill of riding him is still with me.”

    Looking back to the 1967 European Championships at which he and Mister Softee won the first of their back-to-back individual gold medals, David says: “I remember walking the course with Harvey Smith and there was an oxer between two trees going directly away from the collecting ring and Harvey stretched his arms out between the fence and he needed about another two foot on the end of his arms to touch both poles, that’s how wide it was! It was planks on the front, planks on the back, in cups. If you made a mistake at that you went head over heels. 

    “But Mister Softee jumped it terribly well and for the rest of my life, whenever we came across a big oxer in the ring when we were walking the course, Harvey and I used to say to each other: ‘Is it as big as jackpot?’ Jackpot was that fence in Rotterdam. 

    “But not only did Mister Softee win those Europeans, three days later he won the grand prix as well.”

    Continued below…

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    Describing the types of tracks that showjumpers used to jump in those days, David explains: “A lot of the challenge in the course was in a horse’s bravery, let alone being careful. There was a lot more variety of jumps – big walls, oxers with bushes in the middle, and you needed a courageous horse to take them on, not just a careful one. 

    “The course Mister Softee jumped at the Olympic Games at Mexico I think was the biggest course that was ever built, ever in the world really. Nobody’s ever jumped fences like that since I don’t think.”

    Hear more about David’s thoughts and recollections of Mister Softee by tuning in to episode 43 of The Horse & Hound Podcast, or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find out more about getting the magazine delivered to your door every week.

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