‘It’s been an honour to ride him’: popular grey five-star campaigner who took his rider from Pony Club to Badminton retires

  • Kirsty Short has paid tribute to her five-star icon Cossan Lad, who has retired to enjoy his senior years in the rolling hills of Leicestershire after being with her “every step of the way”.

    The eye-catching Carnaval Bouncer son competed at 10 five-stars in his 15-year eventing career, winning fans for his enthusiastic jumping style.
    Kirsty, who was Horse & Hound’s Badminton first-timer blogger in 2018, spoke to H&H in the video above at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, about her memories of riding Bouncer here and to pay tribute to her “cheeky but kind” eventing star.

    “To gallop around here with ease was just absolutely phenomenal,” says Kirsty, who was enjoying a day out spectating at this year’s Badminton, presented by Mars Equestrian. “Once I jumped the Vicarage Vee, I started to relax, then I kicked on up the hill and said ‘I love you!’ to Bouncer.

    “Every Burghley, Badminton, I knew I was going to go out there and have a good crack at the course. And who can sit on a horse in the start box at a five-star and really truly think that?

    “Maybe it’s given me a false sense with the young ones coming through, it’s definitely given me a lot of insight into cross-country riding.

    “We went from Pony Club, the Pony Club championships, doing all our first internationals together to five-star. It was a real dream come true. He is such a special boy. That I’ve had the honour to be able to give him a retirement is something that is special.

    “Everywhere I went, Bouncer came with me. That’s what’s special – and that’s also what’s special about being able to give him a retirement. He truly deserves that, so I’m very happy to have been able to do that for him.”

    She adds, with a laugh, the connection she has with him is “probably like a marriage” and he has been with her “every step of the way” in her life.

    “He’s been so loyal and taught me so much,” she said. “He is retired in a field with two youngsters – they have 11 acres on top of a hill in Leicestershire, where it all started. He’s very happy munching grass and telling them what to do. Hopefully he can train up some superstars and tell them how to do cross-country!”

    Kirsty and Bouncer made their five-star debut at Pau in 2013 and their CV includes completions at two Luhmühlens and at Badminton.

    The now 20-year-old Irish gelding competed at Burghley six times, once with the late Matthew Wright and with Kirsty on the following five occassions.

    The big events – the Burghleys, her first Bramham, Badminton – are naturally among Kirsty’s highlights, but it’s the quiet times in the stable with her horse that she treasures above all.

    “What I really miss is in the evenings, the late checks, sitting there and having a little chat and listening to him eating his hay,” she says. “I think those are the special moments, especially in the stables at three-day events when they are having a snooze. Here at Badminton in the beautiful stables, just sitting with him while he was having a sleep. Those were special times to spend with your horse.”

    The early memories that ignited the “passion to go on up to five-star”, and the challenges they faced as a combination are also experiences that Kirsty treasures as part of the fabric of their journey together.

    Bouncer was famously strong across country and Kirsty, with the help of her trainers, went back to basics over the winter of 2014/15 to fix the issue at its root.

    “It all comes down to the stages of training. He was advanced at eight and I was only 21, so looking back now, I can see what he missed and why going back and fixing his balance and rhythm solved the problem,” Kirsty told H&H for a feature in 2021.

    “It was a year-long process and we went through it when he was turning 11. It is never too late to change something. There’s always time to learn and find that extra bond in your partnership.”

    She adds he has taught her how to approach challenges from other directions as well as the “patience is a virtue” when producing horses.

    “It’s an honour to have been able to ride him,” she says. “I’m so grateful to have found him as a four-year-old at Queenholme and that I’ve had the support from all my trainers over the years. He’s given me an insight into eventing and I hope to be back at Badminton at some point. I’m so grateful for that. He’s given me so much.”

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