15hh part-bred Connemara who jumped round Badminton dies aged 38

  • A four-star event horse remembered for standing just 15hh has been put down at the age of 38 following a long and happy retirement at the home of his owner-rider.

    Connemara/thoroughbred gelding Well Done was ridden by Frances Hooper and his career highlights included completing the cross-country at Badminton during a tough, wet year in 1992.

    The chocolate dun also competed at Blenheim and Bramham, although a niggling splint meant he missed a few big runs during his career.

    “It was a horrible year when I took him round Badminton and I got held for 20 minutes in front of the lake as Mark Todd had fallen. Unfortunately he came out lame the next day, so we didn’t get to complete and I had three horses to take the next year, so he didn’t get a run,” Frances said.

    “He retired at 17 and would ideally have gone to a Pony Club home but no one could ride him, he was so sensitive. I’d have people get on him when I was away and they’d end up going round in circles, so he spent the rest of his days in the field.”

    “I saw his face every day first thing in the morning, so he’s left a very big hole,” she added. “He was sound as a pound trotting across the field right till the end but then lay down one morning and he just couldn’t get up.”

    “Toto” was bought from his breeder as a four-year-old after Frances’ friend spotted him in a field in Essex. He was originally intended for her 14-year-old sister to ride but proved a bit sharp.

    “I went to see him and said I’d take him. He used to jump all the hedges in the field — they’d turn him out in one field and find him in another, so I knew he could jump,” Frances said.

    “I was at a three-day event and couldn’t pick him up straight away and in between he was sold to someone else but they returned him,” she added. “I’m not sure if he hadn’t been backed very well or even if he hadn’t been backed at all — the first time I got on him he sat down.

    “I’d bought him for my sister who was coming of 13.2hhs, but he was way too bright and used to whip round and scare her.”

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    After Frances took over the ride when she was 19, Toto surpassed expectations and just kept going “up and up” the levels in eventing.

    “He went to his first novice when he was five, I don’t think he ever had a stop — he was a freak,” Frances said.

    “He always had a little fan club when he was eventing because he was so small, a lot of people remember him. He was remarkable not just for doing what he did at that size but also for reaching such an age.”

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