Farewell to Olympic and five-star horse who ‘epitomised the rags to riches story’

  • Five-star runner-up and championship horse Courageous Comet, the ride of US rider Becky Holder, died last Thursday (8 February) aged 28.

    Courageous Comet was a grey former racehorse by Comet Shine out of a mare by Seat Of Power. He and Becky (née Douglas) started competing together in 2002 and campaigned at the top level for the best part of a decade.

    “Comet epitomised the rags to riches storyline, and his thoroughbred enthusiasts cheered him on everywhere he went,” Becky told the United States Eventing Association.

    “But it’s the things not in the public eye that I want to share and give thanks for. He loved turnout. He nickered more loudly for it than any meal or treat. When in England, [his groom] Aubrey Dunkerton would take him on luxurious grazes and often would get stuck out in the field when he refused to return to the barn.

    “He often walked briskly out to work, excited for the day’s adventures and then dragged his feet coming home, taking any chance to divert back out for a little longer. Whenever I was in the barn, he tracked me and watched me intensely. Every time I picked up the trot on him, I smiled.”

    Courageous Comet’s career included five finishes at four-star (now five-star) level, with second at Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2008 and third in 2010 his best results. He travelled to Europe to contest his first four-star, Luhmühlen Horse Trials in 2005, and to Burghley Horse Trials in 2006, where he was 15th.

    The pair also represented the US at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong and the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky – where he was denied what could have been his greatest result when he was withdrawn from the holding box at the final trot-up, having held individual bronze position overnight.

    Comet was retired from top-level competition in 2012 and gave Becky’s husband Tom a taste for eventing at grassroots fixtures.

    “He was spicy and sassy throughout his retirement,” said Becky. “It was our utter privilege to give him the retirement he deserved.”

    Becky remembers Comet’s quirks fondly – he was terrified of lines in the surface where arenas had been rolled, and coloured poles on the ground. He would bite his groom Aubrey Dunkerton’s trousers while being plaited and was a masterful escape artist.

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