Tales from the H&H Festival of Eventing: meet the 73-year-old rider and her home-bred, part-bred Highland Pony

  • Louise Esson, a competitor in The Spillers 80cm at this weekend’s Horse & Hound Festival of Eventing at Keysoe (25—27 May), is living proof that age is just a number. Seventy-three-year-old Louise, who is based near Ludlow, also bred the horse she is competing, Buff Beauty.

    “I bred both ‘Bufton’ and his mother, who evented to intermediate,” explains Louise. “Bufton is by a Highland Pony stallion as the past two foals I bred out of the mare were 17hh+, and I decided I needed a size of horse more suited to an old lady!”

    Bufton is named Buff Beauty as he was born under a rosebush of the same name. However, aged seven, vets almost wrote him off.

    “He had problems with his coffin joints and the vets said he would require injections and remedial shoeing,” says Louise. “But instead I took his shoes off and turned him out for six months. He has been barefoot ever since and hasn’t had a lame day. So many other people would have written him off.”

    Louise, who has ridden and evented all of her life, says that although Bufton has never incurred a cross-country fault and hasn’t had a showjump down for two years, he can still be “difficult”.

    “He hates crowded spaces and has a habit of bucking me off in warm-up arenas. He is also grumpy because he is on a restricted diet, but he is a terrific performer.”

    Louise is aiming Bufton for the new BE80 championship at Burghley in 2020 — they won their last outing at BE80(T) level last week.

    “Riding at Burghley is my dream and Bufton is such a cross-country machine, it would be great fun.”

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    Louise says she doesn’t suffer from any ailments, apart from her fingers, which “have had it”.

    “I can’t plait any more but apart from that I’m fine — I’m very lucky really.”

    Louise and Bufton jumped clear inside the time around the cross-country at the H&H Festival of Eventing yesterday, and now sit in 15th place going into the final showjumping phase today.

    Don’t miss the full report from the H&H Festival of Eventing in Horse & Hound magazine — on sale Thursday, 6 June

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