Nearly three years to the day that Big Star and Nick Skelton clinched that momentous Olympic gold medal in Rio, the now 16-year-old stallion was back in the ring — with another legendary rider in the saddle, John Whitaker.
The pair were taking part in the stallion showcase at the Equitop Bolesworth Young Horse Championships on Sunday (18 August) alongside the likes of Je T’Aime Flamenco, Noble Warrior, SFS Aristio and Argento. And with the fences already set up in the main arena for the following class, the seven-year-old championship, John admitted he was almost tempted to give the double Olympic gold medal-winning stallion a pop over a jump or two.
“I thought I could show them all how it’s done!” John told H&H. “I said when Nick retired that it was him that was knackered – the horse was fine! And he felt really good in there. I was very tempted to have a jump on him.”
On entering the Bolesworth arena, Big Star announced his arrival with his trademark neigh and looked as though he was keen to go full pelt over the coloured fences again as John trotted him round in front of the spectators.
“When you have 10 stallions in an arena, you have to keep your wits about you,” said John, whose daughter Louise took the reins on his top ride Argento for the event. “Stallions are often very lazy at home but the complete opposite at a show, but they were all really well behaved.”
Big Star has always been just that, but in Rio he became a legend. We pick out just 10 of
As the the Olympic gold medal-winning duo Nick Skelton and Big Star prepare to officially retire at Royal Windsor Horse
Take advantage of our sale on Horse & Hound magazine subscriptions today
John had ridden Big Star once before at the British Breeding Stallion Event in 2018, while his nephew Jack Whitaker took the reins on the Widdowsons’ champion son of Quick Star at the Stallion AI Services open day last year.
“The stallion parade was a great thing to have at a young horse show where you also had the elite foal auction and everyone was looking at the breeding — it was very fitting to show off these top stallions,” added John.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.