‘He gave me my life back’: farewell to national champion and European gold medallist 

  • The triple European para gold medallist and British young rider team dressage horse Abira has died, aged 20.

    The Danish-bred gelding by Dom Perignon x Dolomit was owned by Pammy Hutton and competed successfully by her son Charlie and daughter Pippa on international youth teams and at small tour, going on to win medals with para dressage rider Suzanna Hext.

    “He had already had a double colic and we knew that they wouldn’t be able to operate on him a third time,” Pammy told H&H.

    “Three or four months ago he had a bad colic day and settled down, but he didn’t deserve to ever be in agony again, and I knew it was time. We have to be fair to our older horses and it’s better to say goodbye a week too early than a day too late.”

    The Huttons bought Abira as a three-year-old, without initially realising he was out of the same mare, Mie, as Pammy’s grand prix ride Belmondo.

    With Charlie, he went to the junior European championships in 2006 and 2007, and the young rider European championships in 2008 and 2010. The pair competed successfully at small tour on the national circuit, and were crowned national winter inter I freestyle champions in 2010.

    “Thank you Abira for teaching me so much. Your grit and strength will never be forgotten,” said Charlie.

    Dressage horse Abira went on to compete briefly with Pippa Hutton in international young rider ranks in 2012, before teaming up with para rider Suzanna Hext in 2015, three years after the devastating riding accident that left the former eventer paralysed.

    The pair went on to record numerous international wins in the grade III category, culminating in winning three gold medals at the European Para Dressage Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2017.

    Suzanna Hext and dresage horse Abira at the European Para Dressage Championships in Gothenburg, 2017.

    “I’ll never forget the first day I sat on Abira. I felt like I was floating, it was like nothing else mattered any more,” Suzanna told H&H.

    “Every time I was with Abira he never failed to put a smile on my face no matter what. He took away the challenges I face in daily life. The bond and partnership I had with Abira was my anchor. His zest for life and everything he did was infectious.

    “At the Gothenburg Europeans all my dreams came true and more,” she added. “I never necessarily thought I’d enjoy my life after my accident, to the same extent as before. However, Abira gave me a reason to fight hard, even through the tough times.

    “He went through the archway at the Europeans and grew a hand! He said to me, ‘Let’s do this’, and on the final day when my body was in pieces he took over the reins and showed me the way.”

    Continues below…

    Suz continued: “The freedom Abira gave me was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. He’s one in a million, a horse of a lifetime, and a true legend. I honestly can’t thank Abira, Pammy and Charlie enough for giving me my life back, and helping me to believe in myself again after my accident. The opportunity they gave me to compete their special boy means the absolute world to me. He’s been my lifeline.”

    As a much-loved schoolmaster at the Huttons’ Talland School of Equitation, Abira “taught so many so much”.

    “He never said no. He was the most incredibly kind horse, and sometimes I thought he was almost human,” said Pammy.

    “Letting him go was so hard – he was truly part of the family at Talland.”

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