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Five-star to nativity star: event horse plays donkey in school play

Popular event horse Cossan Lad has gone from “five-star to nativity star” as he was cast as the donkey in a school play.

“Bouncer”, who has competed at 10 CCI5*s, has added a new string to his bow by delivering Mary safely to Bethlehem at St Christopher School, Hertfordshire, where his owner/rider Kirsty Short is a teacher.

He was “cast” by the school’s drama teacher and shared the part of the donkey in the sixth-form and staff nativity play, taking on the outside scenes, while a student took on the role for the inside shots.

The Irish sport horse sported festive tinsel trimmings to his bridle, while Mary wore a protective helmet as part of her nativity costume.

Kirsty, who took the now 18-year-old gelding from pre-novice (now BE100) to top level, told H&H Bouncer had a lovely time and was a “complete professional”.

“He saw the cameras and thought they must be there for him,” laughed Kirsty, who has completed every five-star in Europe on her home-produced star.

“I brought him in on Saturday, he didn’t come in for the rehearsals so just had to get on with it straight away and he was an absolute pro.

“It was quite special as Mary and Joseph are our head girl and head boy. The student who played Mary has ridden a bit before and Bouncer was really good about having a new jockey. ‘Joseph’ led and was really great at listening to my directions, while I had hold of the other side.

“Bouncer was so well behaved and kept his ears pricked the whole time — he’s gone from five-star to nativity star!”

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The grey son of Carnival Bouncer was not the only animal to take part. The school’s young labradors, affectionately known as the “St Chris puppies”, played the role of the sheep in the heartwarming production.

Kirsty, who was H&H’s Badminton first-timer blogger in 2018, explained that the play — which complied with the school’s extensive Covid-safe protocols — was about bringing some much-needed fun for everyone at the end of this strange year. The production was filmed to be sent to parents, who were not permitted at the live performances owing to the pandemic.

Kirsty, who balances her teaching career with riding, bought Bouncer as a five-year-old when she was just 18. The horse’s eventing career has so far spanned 13 years and 32 international competitions including 10 five-stars, six of which have been at Burghley. Dressage is famously not his favourite phase and he has won many fans for his enthusiasm across country and for his journey with Kirsty from Pony Club to CCI5*.

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