Farewell to world team gold medallist who was third at Badminton: ‘My absolute hero, my darling boy’

  • Arctic Soul, who finished third at both Badminton and Burghley and won a world team gold medal with Gemma Tattersall, has died.

    The 19-year-old won his preparation run for Badminton Horse Trials, an advanced at Weston Park, on Saturday (9 April) on his dressage score. He died of a suspected heart attack after crossing the cross-country finish line.

    The ex-racehorse by Luso was one of the most exceptional cross-country horses of recent times. His best results included third at Badminton 2016 – among five top-20 completions – third and fifth at Burghley Horse Trials in 2017 and 2014, ninth at the Blair European Eventing Championships, a win in the British open and Event Rider Masters at Gatcombe Horse Trials in 2017 and world team gold in 2018.

    Arctic Soul dies: the ex-racehorse on the way to a British open win in 2017

    Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul win the British open at Gatcombe in 2017. Credit: www.focusonhorses.com

    Gemma described “Spike” as “my absolute hero, my bestie, my darling boy”.

    “What we achieved together was just unbelievable really, from failing as a racehorse to so many amazing achievements too numerous to mention,” she said in a tribute on social media.

    “What sticks in my head though is his third at Badminton in 2016 and his pathfinding cross-country round at Tryon at the World Equestrian Games that gave the team so much confidence and we all went on to win team gold.

    “Today he won his last ever event finishing on a lovely dressage, he flew around the cross-country with his ears firmly pricked finding the next fence on his own!

    “Words don’t even come close to what I feel right now, literally horrendous, I will miss him terribly every day.

    “Our partnership was something that I might never have again, just something so special, we just understood each other and I always knew what he wanted and he always knew how to look after me back.”

    Gemma also sent her thanks to the horse’s amazing owners and everyone who has been involved in his career and supporting the partnership.

    “I said goodbye and I thanked him and told him how much he was loved by everyone, and obviously how much I loved him,” said Gemma.

    Arctic Soul dies: tributes flood in from fans

    Gemma also asked for people to share their favourite photo or memory of Arctic Soul. Her post on Facebook has had 10,000 reactions, 1,400 comments and 539 shares.

    Arctic Soul started his British Eventing career with Nicky Roncoroni, who was alerted to the horse by Irish-based agents Shaun and Sally Parkyn. She said the trial was “less than inspiring”, but trusting their judgement, she bought him with the backing of Philip Kerr and his daughter Iona.

    “A raw and gangly ex-racehorse arrived in the Scottish Borders with a hole in his nose from a tight headcollar and a seriously Spikey hairdo – hence the name, well that and the fact he was a little Spikey to deal with – and the journey began,” said Nicky, who has since moved from the Scottish Borders to Ireland.

    “There were great ups and downs. One early memory was dismounting mid-dressage test having performed some fairly spectacular airs above the ground. Cross-country happening all around, the red mist descended, he didn’t know which direction to go in, and discretion was the better part of valour.

    “It’s something I’ve not done before or since but one thing was evident even then, his love of crossing country and travelling at speed. He was as brave as a lion, with ears pricked looking for the fences and a super careful and neat jumper.

    “He always gave ‘that’ feeling, that the truly great horses have deep down in their DNA. It can’t necessarily be taught or trained but if nurtured and encouraged in the right direction, then you have something really serious. It certainly wasn’t easy, but we all could feel and see that potential for greatness.”

    Nicky said Spike and Gemma were meant for each other and mentioned the work done by team Tatt to produce results time and again with this “internally nervous and anxious individual”, who could suffer from stage fright in the first and last phases at big events.

    Philip Kerr, who owned Arctic Soul until 2014 with his daughter Iona, said it was “the end of an era”.

    “What an amazing horse and an honour to have been part of an astonishing eventing journey,” he said. “As Spike’s first fan, he was such a joy to watch across country from start to finish – a bit more challenging to ride – and he has so many more fans now.”

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