Five-star horse steps down to give young rider experience: ‘I’ll miss him, but it’s the right thing for him’

  • Sarah Bullimore’s five-star ride Conpierre has been sold to step down a level and give experience to 26-year-old George Bartlett, who produces the young horses at Caunton Manor Stud.

    “We felt George needed an experienced horse to help educate him further and take him through the ranks. He’s extremely talented and hugely loyal so we are very excited to see how they progress together this year,” said Caunton’s founder Victoria Wright.

    Sarah told H&H: “Conpierre is a lovely horse who’s been a big part of the team here, but he was struggling a little bit with the workload needed to get to a four-star long or five-star. He’s fit, sound and well and not ready to retire completely, but he’s physically not coping with the amount of work to get fit for top level and we thought he needed to step down a little bit.

    “George came and tried him and he’s a beautiful, sympathetic rider, so it all sort of fell into place. He’ll be George’s premier horse and the apple of his eye, whereas for us, realistically, if he drops down a level, he’d slide down the pecking order. The horses going to big three-day naturally always have priority and if he stayed, if we have a busy day, he’d be one who’d have a day off or a little hack. I’ll miss him hugely, but it’s the right thing for him.”

    Conpierre (“Toby”) is now 15 and belonged to Sarah’s husband Brett, her long-term owner Christopher Gillespie and dressage rider Anna Ross. He joined the Bullimores’ yard at Christmas of his five-year-old year.

    “He came into my system a bit later than most of mine and was quite sharp and quirky,” said Sarah. “But everything was a pleasure for him – he was a lovely person to have around and just loves life.

    “When he first started eventing, his first couple of runs he’d clear the cross-country warm-up because he was so excited. He’d land after the practice fence and squirt off bucking. He never wanted to get you off, he just found it so much fun. People thought he was a bit unruly, but he did finally settle and get the gist of it.

    “He rarely had a pole down but when he did, it was sometimes because he’d kicked it off backwards bucking over a fence.”

    Sarah named the highlights of Conpierre’s career as his 10th place at Boekelo Horse Trials CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) in 2017 and eighth at Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5*  in 2019. She also has fond memories of his first CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) at Houghton Horse Trials in 2015, where he finished 10th on his dressage score and helped the British team to second in the Nations Cup.

    Sarah added that Conpierre’s nickname was “Turbo Toby”, saying: “He was so quick-thinking and could act so fast. In the early days, he had a few silly run-outs because he could kick off the floor so fast and you’d know you’d lost him in mid-air. He’d shoot off in a straight line on landing and totally miss the second part of a combination if it was on a curving line. He had no idea he’d run out.

    “He was a lot of fun to produce, a seriously classy horse.”

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