‘He was a soldier’: rider pays tribute to horse who died at Hickstead

  • The heartbroken rider of the horse who suffered a fatal injury in the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby on Sunday (24 June) has paid tribute to his “old friend”.

    H&H reported on Monday that Andrew Kocker had planned to retire Navalo De Poheton after his round, but that the 17-year-old gelding suffered a broken leg on the flat after fence four and had to be put down as a result.

    On Wednesday (27 June) Andrew posted on social media saying he was “extremely heartbroken”.

    “I had a plan to retire him after that round so he could retire as sound as possible,” he said. “My plan was to offer him back to his breeder in France, because he also loved him. He is an older man and had come to the World Cup finals and had tears in his eyes when he saw Navalo.

    “So I thought this would be a perfect ending and reward for all the service he had given me.”

    Andrew said he was “filled with emotion” as he knew this would be the end of his successful partnership with the Selle Francais gelding, on whom he had represented the US at the World Cup finals this April.

    “He came to the schooling area that day and warmed up sounder then ever and behaved better than he ever had,” he said, adding that Navalo was “always so wild” in the warm-up area.

    “I walked in the ring my eyes already watering up thinking about all the experiences we had had together. He jumped the first four jumps in perfect style and was laser focused on the task.

    “After the first four jumps I thought, my god we will be jumping clear today. We will be going out with a bang! Then I felt something very wrong.”

    Andrew said he tried to pull up but “being the soldier he was”, Navalo was still trying to canter towards fence five.

    “So I literally jumped off as he was still trying to canter and landed running beside him,” he added. “The staff at Hickstead are very good. There were loads of people out immediately to help my beloved Navalo. They tried their best but there was nothing they could do.”

    Andrew said he was taken away from the horse as he was “such a wreck” but that this was the right thing to do as “there would have been no way I could have put him down”.

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    He added: “My friends helped me say goodbye to him, they cut a piece from his tail.

    “I decided to have him cremated and that’s the last I will ever see of him.

    “I’m very lucky to have so many friends that care about myself and the horse.”

    Andrew said he would be returning all the messages of support he has received.

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