Driving pony turned showjumper ‘still winning’ aged 22 retires

  • An “ordinary” pony, who was successful in carriage driving before turning his talents to showjumping and racked up top three placings in more than 92% of his classes, has bowed out on a high aged 22.

    Sue Hendry from Aberdeenshire bought 14.2hh cob Tomahawk as a four-year-old for carriage driving after she gave up riding.

    Sue, an accredited British Eventing (BE) coach, told H&H: “I had really bad hips and I took up carriage driving, but the horse I had at the time wasn’t working out. I was looking for another one so I bought Tom to drive.

    “He’d done a bit of basic driving so we did a bit more and started to compete. At the end of 2002, I emigrated to Australia and took him with me. Our first competition there was at the Olympic venue in Sydney.

    “We were there about a year then came back and continued driving competitively. We did some international classes and were later long-listed for the British carriage driving team as a single pony which was really exciting.”

    Follow hip replacement surgery in 2008, Sue decided to see if she could ride again.

    “Tom hadn’t done a lot under saddle but he’d done a bit. He could always jump – that I didn’t have to teach him,” said Sue.“I took him cross-country and he was very good, he was used to water from carriage driving and things like that.

    “I started doing BE in 2009 for two and a half years and he won his very last event, the BE100 at Scone Palace Horse Trials in April 2011.”

    Sue underwent a second hip replacement and began showjumping with Tom as her job as a coach made having the time to event difficult. Sue said Tom’s ability to make “ridiculous” turns helped by his previous driving career made him a strong contender against horses in British Showjumping (BS) classes.

    “We did 135 BS classes and won 60% of them, and were in the top three in over 92% of them. He is just amazing in his ability, he always made the horse strides – he just managed. He has the heart of a lion,” said Sue.

    Sue retired Tom on 22 February at a BS competition at Cabin Equestrian Centre in Aberdeenshire where he won his class.

    “He has been so generous and tried so hard – that’s why I retired him, he was still winning. He’s 22 and doesn’t owe me anything so I decided he would go out on a win and that would be it,” said Sue.

    “He is the true definition of extraordinary because he’s just an ordinary chap. He’s the nicest person and so easy. He deserves recognition for being so adaptable, he’s a little wee fluffy, cobby creature.”

    Sue plans to hack Tom, but said the “jury is out” on whether she’ll get another horse to compete.

    “Everyone is asking if I have retired too. I love to win and have been a very competitive rider for a very long time but Tom is so special, I don’t think there is ever anyone that could follow him,” she said.

    “Tom was just fabulous all the time. I don’t think there’s one competition or one moment that stands out because he never ever let me down. I don’t want to let him down now, I want him to live into his 30s and we’ll keep hacking out as long as he can.”

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