Carl Hester’s final farewell to the Olympic horse who ‘proved everyone wrong’

Carl Hester’s Athens Olympics ride Escapado — known at home as Peanuts — has died aged 26.

The bay gelding, by Exlibris out of a mare by Ikarus, played a pivotal role in Carl’s international career, finishing 13th at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

The pair’s undoubted highlight was finishing third in the grand prix special at the 2005 European Dressage Championships in Hagen, Germany, with a score of 74.32%.

“He changed a lot of things for me,” said Carl. “He took me from last place in Aachen in 2003 to the highest placed Brit at the Athens Olympics in 2004, then finishing third in the special at the 2005 European Championships — separate medals were not awarded for the special that year.

“It was a big risk taking him to the Olympics with his quirky temperament,” Carl told H&H. “We got there and the first thing he did was pull off a shoe, but after that he proved everyone wrong.

“He always lived out — there aren’t many grand prix horses that can live out and remain hot enough for the big sport, but he loved his work. He didn’t like being on his own, though — he wasn’t spooky, but he would get lonely in the arena and whinny.”

Shortly after the Europeans in 2005, Peanuts was sold to the Netherlands to be ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud, who spent four successful years competing with him on the international circuit, before the gelding was retired at the age of 18 and returned to Carl.

“He had an amazing retirement — eight good years which is lovely. His feet and legs had just become very tired out,” Carl said.

“I want to thank his faithful groom and my friend Caroline [Dawson] for giving him a gorgeous retirement.

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“Peanuts loved ponies all his life; he would go crazy if he saw ponies at a show, and he lived out his days with two Shetland ponies whom he adored. I can’t thank Caroline enough for his past few years; he will be much missed.”

Carl has shared the poignant poem The Last Battle in tribute to Peanuts:

If it should be that I grow weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep,

Then you must do what must be done,

For this last battle cannot be won.

 

You will be sad, I understand.

Don’t let your grief then stay your hand.

For this day, more than all the rest,

Your love for me must stand the test.

 

We’ve had so many happy years.

What is to come can hold no fears.

You’d not want me to suffer so;

The time has come — please let me go.

 

Take me where my need they’ll tend,

And please stay with me till the end.

Hold me firm and speak to me,

Until my eyes no longer see.

 

I know in time that you will see

The kindness that you did for me.

Although my tail its last has waved,

From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.

 

Please do not grieve — it must be you

Who had this painful thing to do.

We’ve been so close, we two, these years;

Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.

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