Small but mighty four-star event horse dies

  • Bluestone Luke, the diminutive four-star ride of Kerry Varley, has died at the age of 16.

    Announced on ‘Lukey’s’ Facebook page this morning, the statement read: “It is with the most unbelievable sadness that we are writing this post, but last night Lukey passed away in his field. He was Kerry’s horse of a lifetime and best friend. I’m sure he is happily galloping away up there – avoiding all dressage arenas.”

    Lukey, who stood at a mere 15.2hh, had started at Burghley on five occasions, completing the cross-country every time with four clear rounds to his name. He also completed Badminton in 2016.

    “I can’t believe he’s gone,” said an emotional Kerry, who was aiming to get back in the saddle after having a baby later this year, in time to take Lukey to Burghley. “I rode him yesterday and he was fine — I turned him out in the field as he loved being out. He trotted off and then this morning he was gone. He was the main reason I got out of bed every day.”

    BLUESTONE LUKE  Kerry Varley

    Kerry found Luke, who was by Irish Draught stallion High Scope, in Northern Ireland 10 years ago, at a yard located on Bluestone Road, hence his name.

    “I’d gone horse shopping for two days, but had found nothing. The yard where Lukey was, was the last one we visited before we had to fly home and I was determined that I was going home with a new horse,” explained Kerry.

    “There was this little horse kicking the crap out of his stable door in the corner — Derek Leonard, who owned him, said he wasn’t for sale. Despite this he got on Lukey, trotted him up and down the road and said he was good in traffic. I then got on him, couldn’t get him on the right leg and had his nose up my ears, but I bought him anyway.”

    Kerry Varley riding BLUESTONE LUKE during the cross country phase of The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Stamford UK, September, 2013

    Lukey competed at his first four-star as a nine-year-old after just 47 British Eventing runs, having been the horse to take Kerry around her first advanced tracks.

    “He was the smallest and youngest horse in the field that year at Burghley,” said Kerry. “But he jumped clear — there’s nothing he wouldn’t jump across country and I remember at his very first event in 2007, it was like he had been doing it all of his life. He was tough and just loved his job.”

    However Kerry said that Lukey didn’t quite share the same amount of love for the dressage phase.

    “He hated dressage. He could do all of the movements perfectly well at home, but as soon as he got to an event with grass under his feet, that was it. We tried everything but he always made his own test up — people used to watch our just because they knew he would misbehave! It wasn’t necessarily because he was naughty, he just wasn’t designed for dressage as he was on the forehand and didn’t move very well.”

    Kerry Varley riding BLUESTONE LUKE during the dressage phase of The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials near Stamford in Lincolnshire UK on 1st September 2016

    Lukey recently had been ridden by a 12-year-old girl at home.

    “Anyone could ride him — he was like a big dog — he never put his ears back and just wanted cuddles,” said Kerry, who is based near Stamford, Lincolnshire. “He will be missed by so many people — nobody who met him didn’t like him. But we’ve got lots of pictures and memories of him and he won’t be forgotten.”

    The cause of death is yet unknown and Lukey is undergoing an autopsy.

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