‘The most incredible journey’: Tokyo contender retired following injury

  • A Tokyo contender who enjoyed top-five finishes at Badminton and Aachen has retired from the sport following injury.

    New Zealand rider Clarke Johnstone announced his 17-year-old gelding Balmoral Sensation, known as Ritchie, sustained an injury at the Sydney International Three-Day Event (6-9 May).

    “After jumping a fantastic clear cross-country with his ears pricked all the way to the finish flags like he always does, unfortunately it became clear that Balmoral Sensation had picked up an injury and he wouldn’t be continuing in the competition,” said Clarke.

    “Sadly this has also ruled us out of Olympic contention for the Tokyo Games.”

    Clarke said after all of the “wonderful moments and memories” Ritchie had given him, the “very sad” decision had been made to call time on the gelding’s “brilliant” eventing career.

    Clarke and Ritchie enjoyed many top placings in New Zealand and Australia since 2014. The pair were fifth at Badminton Horse Trials in 2016 and fifth at the Aachen CICO3* in 2018. In 2016 the combination made their Olympic debut as part of the New Zealand squad in Rio alongside Sir Mark Todd, and Tim and Jonelle Price. The team came fourth while Clarke was sixth individually, the highest-placed Kiwi rider.

    “More than owing me nothing, I owe Ritchie a huge debt of gratitude and he has gone home now to start his retirement that he has so thoroughly earned,” said Clarke, adding that it was hard to put into words what Ritchie means to him.

    “In the seven years I have ridden Ritchie he has taken not just me, but my family and friends on the most incredible journey. All over the world; from Adelaide and Aachen to Badminton, Brazil and Belgium, and always in the prizes. Through the highs and lows of sport, the triumphs and the tears, Ritchie has been the most amazing teammate. Brave, honest and so clever. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me or me for him.”

    Clarke said “without a doubt” the “crowning glory” of the pair’s career was the Rio Games, and although the gelding tied up on arrival in Rio and felt “flat” in the dressage, he gave Clarke the “most incredible” ride across country

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    “He just never missed a beat from start to finish,” he said. “That was the best feeling of my life at the time, jumping clear around the difficult Olympic course with my mate. Probably only bettered by our clear round in the team showjumping the following day to put New Zealand in gold medal position. Sadly the team medal wasn’t to be and then Ritchie was completely out of gas in the individual jumping, and I made a dumb mistake so no medal there either. Ritchie gave his absolute best though and I was so proud to be taking home the best horse in the world in my eyes.”

    Clarke said Ritchie is “way more” than the wins and the placings, and that even people who did not know the gelding loved him.

    “It’s the end of an era for me and Ritchie. It’s been a great one,” he said.

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