‘It’s like taking your Nan round an obstacle course’: check out these fabulous ‘golden oldies’ still living life to the max

  • While all horses should be treated as individuals, there are many out there proving that getting older doesn't have to mean slowing down. Check out this selection of horses and ponies aged 20 and above, who all still love to compete

    1. Bodie, 29

    “Bodie is known as Nanny McPhee on the yard as she only has about four working teeth and one often peeks out when she is excited! She has a real ‘get up and go’ attitude and absolutely loves jumping. Until five years ago I had never sat on a horse, but Bodie forgives my mistakes and has always brought me home safely. We have achieved things I wouldn’t have thought were possible, even if it’s a bit like taking your 80-year-old Nan round an obstacle course! Bodie is regularly checked by the vet, chiropractor and physio and shows no signs of slowing down; we will continue until the day she says ‘that’s enough’. She has been the best thing that has ever happened in my life, and I am so proud of her and everything we have achieved” — Kate Costa

    2. Monty’s Star, 27

    “A Belgian warmblood by Heartbreaker, Monty was my first horse. We have been showjumping for 21 years and he is a huge part of our family. He is my best friend and ‘chats’ to me all the time. Monty has competed successfully at every major jumping championship in the UK, often alongside household names. During the past eight years we have been competitive on the amateur circuit, which is great for older horses who still love their job. He’s fit, sound and when he sees a jump his face lights up and I have to hold on tight!” — Hannah Goodby-Dudgeon

    3. Merlin, 27

    “At 12.3hh and 27 years old, Merlin is one of the most successful mounted games ponies of all time. He still competes, usually nearly every weekend, and is the reigning 2019 world individual and pairs champion. In total he has taken 10 world individual titles and more than 20 British titles – he is totally untouchable. He has the heart of a lion and always rises to the occasion; he is totally irreplaceable and there will never ever be another pony like him” —Gemma Hopkins

    4. Guest Of Honour, 22

    “‘Angel’ is 22 and we compete in dressage at advanced medium, and we are hoping to move up to advanced and prix st georges. My boy is lucky to be here – before I owned him he was involved in an accident in the lorry, losing half his back foot. But in 12 months he made a full recovery and back out competing, and has never taken a lame stride since. He still loves to work and is an absolute joy!” — Laura Louise Harrison

    5. Pretty Mate, 23

    “Pretty Mate is an Irish jumping pony by Merry Mate and has had a hugely successful career with Matt Sampson, Ruby Pointer and Shannon Smith. We bought her two years ago to teach our daughter Eleanor the ropes over fences, and she is still in full work and out competing frequently and successfully in unaffiliated jumping and veteran classes. We feel very lucky to be given the opportunity to allow her to live the rest of her days with us at home and enjoy her retirement when that eventually comes” — Pagane Magnus

    6. Ditto, 27

    “In the 10 years we have had this pony he has given every bit of his heart and soul to my daughter, Amy. She fell in love with Pony Club mounted games and her sights on competing at Horse of the Year Show. She and Ditto achieved that dream, qualifying and competing there in 2015. Her younger brother has also gone on to compete Ditto in many disciplines: showjumping, cross-country, pony-racing, hunting, dressage. Ditto is the pony that makes dreams comes true” — Clare Hunt

    7. Mr Mackintosh, 25

    Credit: SLR Photography

    “We compete in British Showjumping (BS) at around 1.10m and Mac is still going strong. He is my horse of a lifetime: together we have had placings and winnings up to 1.30m, and he was even at my wedding! He is a huge character – he will jump out of any field he doesn’t like, no matter how big the gate, or if he wants to come in. He loves shows and gets very excited, and is currently enjoying hacking out, and galloping around, and is read for when we can start competing again. He feels as good as ever!” — Georgina Joynson

    8. Cloons Masterplan, 24

    “We bought Ross aged nine for my son to event and hunt, then I took him on when my son went to university. He has taken me round many hunt rides including the Golden Button three times, and last year we were eighth at the Team Chasing national championships with The Stunts That Can’t Be Made. He was fit and ready for more team chasing this spring before lockdown stopped play” — Julia Begley

    9. Sammie III, 21

    “Having previously evented with Pixie Thomas, Sammie took me from BE90 to CIC* (now CCI2*-S) in one season. When he was 20 we flew round our first 1.20m BS classes, and continued to do so this year until the lockdown. He is flying intermediate cross-country fences in training and we are aiming to get back out at 1.20m when competition starts up again. Would he still fly round Badminton if I asked him to? Absolutely!” — Chloe Griffiths

    10. Sheridan, 21

    “As ‘Shez’ has got older he has become more and more wonderful and our partnership has never been so strong. He is consistently great at everything, including jumping. Generally in a jump-off he won’t be the fastest but he will clear everything! We have also turned our hand to dressage and have found our forte in combined training, qualifying for and competing at the British Dressage combined training championships in March this year. So many people write off veteran horses but Sheridon has shown that they can be a force to be reckoned with in the competition arena. Veteran Sheridon is certainly a better partner than younger Sheridon, and I wouldn’t change him for the world” — Vicky Leese 

    11. Murthwaite Brown Girl, 31

    “‘Fudge’ has been in our family for 27 years and was my first pony ­— she has outlived four of my other horses. She still does in-hand and ridden showing classes, working hunter classes and jumping. She has come into her prime as a veteran pony and we have had the best years ever, being reserve champion veteran at Royal Windsor in 2018, and being placed at the Veteran Horse Society championships. Fudge loves to get out and about, competing, exploring the Lake District and galloping on the beach” — Natasha-Jade Frith-Williams

    12. Hurricane Rose, 20

    “‘Tyke’ is a fabulous Trakehner mare and the matriarch of our little herd. We had an amazing three seasons trail hunting with the Badsworth and Bramham Moor but now competes in dressage at affiliated prelim level as she has beautiful paces. After I had a very bad freak accident, losing my right eye and suffering multiple facial fractures, I thought I would never ride again, but Tyke looked after me during this very difficult period and gave me the confidence to ride and handle my horses again. She is one in a million” — Ruth McMullen

    13. Blaze, 26

    “Blaze is 26, the same age as me, and together we have competed in riding club competitions, doing a bit of everything. Before starting her competitive career with me aged 15, Blaze had only been hacked out, so it shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks! Before the coronavirus pandemic we had been having lessons to improve our flatwork, and online dressage is our new focus!” — Emma Bartlett

    14. Tom Jones, 28

    “Back in the day he was one of the best 148cm jumping pones on the circuit, and has competed all around the country. When he came to my yard I instantly fell in love with him and his cheeky character has come out. We frequently compete in unaffiliated showjumping and he loves his job and doesn’t want to give up any time soon. When he walks into the ring it’s like he’s in a 10-year-old’s body and he attacks the fences. He will tell me when he’s had enough and until that day comes we will continue doing what he loves” — Shannon Johnson

    15. Millie, 20

    “Millie is an Argentinian polo pony whom we purchased to show my son Harry the polocrosse ropes. She took him to the Pony Club Four Nations in 2019, where they became champions. She’s a gentle mare with the heart of a lion and plenty of spring her step, still following the ball in line-outs. She was still actively playing before lockdown; Millie gives her all in every game and she’ll stay with us for life” — Rachel Horton-Barr

    16. Paddy, 20

    “Paddy has competed up to CCI3*-L and at 15hh is an absolute pocket rocket with the biggest character in the world. When he’s bored of being groomed he’ll untie himself and attempt to head back to the field, he insists on rolling as soon as he’s finished a competition and excited bucks are a standard part of his warm-up. He is still having the most amazing time eventing with my daughter Sophie and showing her the ropes. This year they qualified for the Riding Club and Pony Club regional championships, and also came sixth in their first one-day-event. Sophie trusts him completely and the confidence he’s given her is amazing” — Kate Rainbird

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