Cake, Polos and prosecco — everything an Olympic stallion needs at his retirement party

Nick Skelton’s Olympic showjumper Arko III has this week retired from stud at the age of 25.

But there was no chance the much-loved bay stallion would be sloping off quietly to the green fields of the Hales family’s Shaw Farm Stud. Oh no, after 20 years on the job, first it was time for a proper send-off.

As the video shows, Arko tucked into a spectacular mint-garnished cake cooked up by the yard’s head groom Anna Holland, received a special farewell card and there were balloons, polos, crisps, prosecco — “and lots of cuddles and kisses” — at his “retiring from stud” party hosted by his friends at Stallion AI Services in Shropshire, where he was also joined by his owners, Pat and Lisa Hales.

“He has so many fans and he’s been an absolute pleasure to have on the yard,” said the stud’s Katie Norris.

The son of Argentinus, out of the top showjumping mare Unika (by Beach Boy), won well over £1,000,000 in a glittering career with Nick Skelton before retiring from the sport in 2008.

The pair represented Great Britain at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2005 European Championships. They jumped double clear on Nations Cups teams, as well as winning the grands prix of Lucerne, Estoril and Rome before giving Nick his fourth victory in the world’s richest class, the CN International at Spruce Meadows in 2008. Nick credits Arko for bringing him back to the sport after he broke his neck in a riding accident.

Arko’s career at stud has proved equally fruitful. Over two decades, he has sired many high-performing progeny including John Whitaker’s top ride Argento; SFS Aristio, who is owned by the Hales family and competes under Irish rider Anthony Condon, and Shark, who was bred by Sue Welch out of another of Nick Skelton’s leading rides Showtime and jumped at five-star level with Rowan Willis.

This week, Arko returned to the home of his owner, Lisa Hales, but frozen semen remains available from Stallion AI Services.

We all wish you a very happy retirement, Arko!

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