‘His groom would stay up all night playing him classical music’: 8 things that may surprise you about the legendary Shutterfly

  • With the sad news last week that the legendary showjumping horse Shutterfly had died at the age of 30, we wanted to celebrate the unforgettable gelding and the phenomenal 12-year partnership he had with his devoted rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.

    The full story of Shutterfly’s rise to stardom is an emotional journey, but when he reached the top, he dazzled us with his presence, athleticism and apparent will to win. Here, Meredith reveals some often surprising things about this beautiful bay gelding, who will be remembered as one of the most successful showjumping horses of all time.

    Classical music helped Shutterfly to relax

    Meredith and her devoted groom of 25 years, Anu Harrila, took on the role of “safety blanket” to the “spooky and sensitive” Shutterfly.

    “Sometimes at shows Anu would stay in his stall all night playing classical music to help him relax – he was high maintenance!” says Meredith. “But that’s what made him special and he was absolutely worth it.”

    His original name was Struwwelpeter

    The German-bred Silvio I gelding was originally named Struwwelpeter, after a character in a German fairytale on whom the movie Edward Scissorhands was based. When he was purchased for Meredith, Struwwelpeter was renamed Shutterfly after his new owner Jim Clark’s US digital photo company, although his stable name “Petey” remained.

    “I liked the name Shutterfly because it was elegant and so suited him,” says Meredith.

    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly

    He won three World Cup Finals, the third at the age of 16

    Meredith and Shutterfly completed a hat-trick at this prestigious event, winning in 2005, 2008 and 2009.

    “The icing on the cake was the third one when he won every single leg and he never made a mistake, and that’s very rare,” says Meredith.

    Meredith never rode Shutterfly in prize-givings

    Although exceptionally brave over fences, Shutterfly was anxious about his surroundings and many people will remember the scenes as he struggled to cope with the four-way horse-swap at the World Championships in 2006. He was sensitive to loud noises and jumping him indoors proved difficult at times, but Meredith discovered early on that prize-givings would push him over the edge.

    “He would freak out, pawing and sweating, until finally one day he got so upset he almost lay down in the ring,” recalls Meredith. “That was the last prize-giving I ever rode him in, when he was nine.”

    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly at the 2008 Olympics

    Shutterfly won medals at the European and World Championship, but never at the Olympics

    In a highly decorated career together, Meredith and Shutterfly won team and individual bronze at WEG in 2006 and team silver and individual gold at the Europeans in 2007. However, they just missed out at the Olympics, finishing fourth after a seven-way jump-off to Eric Lamaze and Hickstead in 2008.

    “I felt so responsible for Shutterfly because I knew it would be his last Olympics and he wasn’t going to win a medal,” says Meredith.

    He would bolt if horses came up behind him

    At Meredith’s home in Thedinghausen, Germany, there was an unspoken rule that every time Shutterfly was cantering, everyone else had to stop and walk.

    “That was how much he’d earned his place on the yard,” says Meredith. “But he would bolt if he heard the noise of hooves coming behind him in our arena.”

    AACHEN, GERMANY - JULY 13: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany on her horse Shutterfly celebrates after winning the Warsteiner jumping competition at the CHIO on July 13, 2011 in Aachen, Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

    The pair won more than €3.5million in prize-money

    Durning a phenomenal 12 years together in the ring, Meredith and Shutterfly won a glittering array of accolades, including the grand prix of Aachen in 2005, a brace of Top 10 Finals (2004 and 2006) and more than 20 top-level grands prix and World Cup qualifiers. He also helped Meredith to achieve the world number one spot, the first female rider to do so.

    “He blossomed into one of the greatest horses to ever live,” says Meredith.

    Petey enjoyed his retirement at Meredith’s home

    After his retirement from the sport at Aachen in 2011 (pictured winning his final competition, above) at the age of 18, Shutterfly enjoyed a “chilled” retirement for the next 12 years at Meredith’s home.

    “He will live in our hearts forever,” says Meredith.

    As Meredith says of her beloved Shutterfly, “Everyone dreams of having a wonderful partnership in their lives, whether it’s with a husband or a child – in my case it was with a horse.” They’ve undoubtedly earned their place in showjumping history – Shutterfly and Meredith, a partnership we will never forget.

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