Final tributes paid to five-star eventer who beat the odds to reach the top

  • Tributes have been paid to a homebred eventing star who overcame a tricky start in life to win at the top of the sport.

    Bit Of A Barney, who took Louise Harwood to her first CCI5*, died in December aged 25 following a stellar career and a happy retirement.

    “He was the first horse we bred out of Gerfuffle — we had her as a point-to-pointer and I decided she was going to be my eventer,” Louise told H&H.

    “She went from never having done a circle in her life aged 12 to the junior final trial. She was in foal with Barney towards the end of the last season I evented her, so Barney had already been eventing with me even before he was born.

    “He came out and he was this tiny little thing and could walk right under the mare’s tummy. He had a very wonky leg and the vet told us we would be lucky if he made a hack.”

    Barney’s leg was operated on to straighten it out and they deliberated about his future, but Louise was determined he would be her eventer — and so he was.

    His start meant his achievements surpassed every expectation they had for him.

    “He was a lovely horse to ride, very quiet and you could send anyone out hacking on him, but the one thing he really hated was clapping,” Louise said.

    Barney’s conformation meant he found dressage a struggle and it was the help of David Pincus that proved key in transforming him from a horse who was “always last” after the first phase, to one who won twice at advanced.

    “He always loved his jumping, again he didn’t make the classical shape over a fence, but he would tuck his little back legs in and was super,” said Louise. “Nobody would have bought him from the way he moved, so lucky old me that I was the one who got to have him. He had a heart of gold and tried so hard.

    “I was so scared at my first Burghley. I remember thinking ‘can I get round these jumps? They are so enormous!’ so we just jumped one at a time and came home clear with a few time-faults.”

    In all, Barney competed at five Burghleys, three Badmintons and 13 three-stars (now four-stars). He won advanced sections at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe and Wellington, and was also a Grade B showjumper.

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    “It is pretty awesome to win an advanced at Gatcombe,” added Louise. “The dressage judges liked him and I thought ‘god, I’m actually in with a chance!’ That was very exciting.

    His second win was at Wellington when he was 18 and we couldn’t ask any more of him than that, so that was the perfect time to retire him.”

    Barney lived out his days with Judi Fox and her daughter, enjoying hacking and life as a companion to some other retired horses.

    “He was such a dude — he even came to my wedding with his full brother Pickle [Partly Picked], which was the only thing that made me cry!” Louise said. “He was so cuddly, so easy and had such a lovely character. “Thank you, Barney, for all the dreams you made come true.”

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