‘Today is emotional’: official retirement of Olympic medal-winning horse at Pau

Piaf De B’Neville, the horse responsible for claiming France an individual silver and team gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was retired in an official ceremony at Les étoiles de Pau CCI4* on Sunday afternoon (28 October).

Known as ‘Ben’ at home, the now 15-year-old, helped launch the international career of Astier Nicolas.

“He did nearly everything for my career and today is emotional,” said Astier. “But I’m also happy because he has retired as a sound and successful horse.”

From the 20 international starts Ben had during his career, he never faulted across country and was in the top 10 13 times.

“I hope I have more horses like him in the future,” admitted Astier. “My biggest achievement with him was winning the CCI4* at Pau in 2015. That was special.”

With Astier Ben also won the CCI3* under-25 in 2012, was ninth at Badminton in 2013, eighth in Aachen in 2014 and he also won the CIC3* at Chatsworth in 2016. He also represented France at the European championships in Malmö in 2013, where they contributed to a team bronze.

His final event was at Badminton in 2017, where he finished 15th with a clear round across country.

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During the ceremony, Ben, who was owned by a syndicate, was gifted to his former groom, Julie Le Marinel.

“I was his groom at his first Badminton and I’m so happy he can come and live with me near where he was born in Cherbourg,” said an emotional Julie. “He loves cows, so he will live out with my milkers and act as my Jeep around the farm.”

Ben’s retirement was announced in May earlier this year, but the ceremony saw him retired in the traditional manner, where he was ridden into the main arena in front of the crowds and then untacked. Julie then led him around on a lap of honour.

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