Alice Oppenheimer has paid tribute to the horse who “made me the rider I am today”.

The international dressage rider announced on social media that her 2009 young rider European Championships partner Wurlizer had been put down at the age of 18.

“Wizard” came to Alice when he was five and she was 15.

“When I got him, I never dreamed we’d do half of what we did,” Alice told H&H.

“I was 15 and had never ridden above medium; never in a million years would I have thought we’d do all that; it was a fairytale really.”

Wizard’s career ended after he was diagnosed with pastern arthritis in 2013. But he had since enjoyed a long and happy retirement at Alice’s Hampshire home.

“The vets said pastern arthritis is very unforgiving and that we might have to make a very horrible decision very quickly,” she said. “So I’m so pleased he was able to have five happy years.

“I just got him in one day and said: ‘today’s the day’. He’d just lost that glint in his eye; you know your animals and I knew.

“He’d had a lovely winter, out with a brood mare and some fillies and he’d really enjoyed it; had it been a wet summer, he might have been able to enjoy another one but the ground was hard and it was the right time; we had to do it for him.”

Alice and the Hanoverian gelding made their way up the grades together, winning at the national and winter championships, moving up to grand prix, achieving good placings internationally and finishing in the top 10 at the 2012 national championships.

“He did so much for me,” she said. “He made me the rider I am today.

“He was such a kind, forgiving horse, very sweet and genuine. He was learning with me; I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and neither did he, but he would just come round and try again.

“Your first grand prix horse has to be forgiving because you will get things wrong but if they’re not a schoolmaster, they have to be even more genuine.

“There aren’t many horses like him; he was rare and very special.”

Alice said Wizard could be lazy and almost lethargic at home.

“Some days I’d struggle to get him into trot,” she said. “But he loved showing off, he loved an atmosphere, he loved competing; he was like a different horse at shows. I’d have to compete him once a month as he got so bored at home.

“His last competition was the 2012 nationals. We finished in the top 10 and it was when we’d just won gold at the London Olympics, Carl Hester was there with Uthopia and to be placed in all that buzz was really quite special.”

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But for a horse who did enjoy his job so much, Alice said, Wizard was also very happy “going out in the field and living a perfect life as far as a horse is concerned”.

“He was living the life of luxury he deserved,” she said.

“I was a bit concerned as he’d never been much of a field horse, but he loved it and thrived. I’m so pleased he had those happy five years.”

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