29-year-old horse who ‘loves a party’ takes two dressage wins

  • A 29-year-old part-bred thoroughbred who won both his British Dressage classes last weekend — and two championships last autumn — is fit, well and happy and “loves a party”.

    Katie Hughes and her Irish draught/thoroughbred Marble Arch won prelim 19 with 70% at Radfords Equestrian on Sunday (29 May), and the freestyle to music with 74.17%.

    Katie told H&H she took “Archie” for a lesson soon after she bought him, 15 years ago, and her trainer laughed.

    “She said ‘What on earth have you bought this for?’” Katie said. “But we evented until he was about 24, with lots of placings, and did dressage, then we did a bit of veteran showing, and qualified for Olympia in 2018, which was amazing.

    “I pretty much begged, borrowed and stole to get there, but thought we were only making up the numbers — and we came third, which was great.”

    Last autumn, the combination won the prelim silver class at the British Dressage veteran championships at Vale View, with just under 70%, then won the same section in the draught part-bred championship at Bury Farm a week later.

    “That was just mega,” Katie said. “I think he was the oldest horse at Vale View; when people think of veterans, they don’t really think of 28-year-olds, and he spooked his way round but won, then at Bury Farm, he was up against horses of all ages and still won, which was just brilliant.

    “A couple of weeks ago, we were selected for the senior inter-regionals at Bishop Burton and again, I thought I was there to make up the numbers — my number one aim is not to be the drop score — but we came eighth. He’s happy and healthy and loves a party, so we keep going.”

    Katie said Archie is not worked hard, with a mixture of schooling and hacking, and although he is on a joint supplement, he has no other medication, and he loves competing.

    “He showed that again last weekend,” she said. “He loads himself on to the lorry and at the other end, he unloaded himself, as my sister was at the bottom of the ramp and he went down for a mint.

    “He’s a superstar, and everyone’s best friend and I don’t think there will ever be another one like him.”

    Katie added that Archie rarely puts a foot wrong, except occasions like a Royal International Horse Show qualifier last year, where he caught sight of a wind turbine at some distance from the ring.

    “There were only three in it and I thought we had a chance but could I get him to stand still?” she said. “Absolutely not. He was huffing and puffing, marching around. My friends were in hysterics and at the end, the judge said ‘You had this in the bag but your horse was so naughty, I couldn’t give it to you’! Whenever we pass a wind turbine now, I say ‘Archie, just close your eyes’!”

    Katie said she fears that if Archie were not to be kept happily ticking over, he would “seize up, stiffen and curl up”.

    “I think that would be the worst thing I could do,” she said. “I’d never forgive myself because now he’s happy and full of life — and he does love a party.”

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