‘End of an era’: tributes paid to 15hh ‘lioness’ who went to the top in three sports

  • Tributes have been paid to a 15hh “lioness” who reached the Horse of the Year Show in showing, became a grade A showjumper, and won at advanced level eventing.

    Ellas Drum, bred by Ina Clutton and Rob Bevis, enjoyed a successful career across three disciplines with Laura Johnson, wife of showjumper Anthony Condon, before an early retirement aged 13 owing to issues arising from melanomas.

    Laura told H&H she formerly worked for Rob Bevis when she was still in school and Ellas Drum came to her and her mum Helen for backing.

    “She came to us and never left,” she said. “I was still on ponies at the time so she was a nice transition size and she just fitted in. She had a big character, and we’ve always liked them like that – a big personality and quite quirky, and that was her.”

    Laura first had success with Ellas Drum, who was by KWPN stallion Carnaval Drum and out of Robert’s showjumping mare Kamella, in working hunter. The pair achieved top three placings at Royal International Horse Show and Horse of the Year Show. Laura then turned her focus to showjumping and eventing. In April 2010 they jumped clear around the three-star (now CCI4*) at Belton Park, and they went on to win the advanced class at Auchinleck. 2011 was Laura and Ellas Drum’s final year eventing, and they briefly returned to the show ring before her retirement in 2012.

    “For me it was mainly about the eventing with her,” said Laura. “She had so much character, and she wasn’t the easiest. She used to try and buck me off before I went in the start box – she was an out and out character.

    “Because she was so lioness-like she had a lot of fight in her and never knew how small she was. It’s rare, you don’t hear of many that have done all those things, it’s pretty cool.”

    Ellas Drum spent her retirement nannying Laura and Anthony’s foals and youngstock, and enjoying attention from Helen every day. She was put down this week aged 24 owing to further complications from melanomas and old age.

    “Over the years the melanomas had got bigger, and she didn’t winter that great last year, so we said this summer we’d give her a really nice summer. You’re best doing it a day early, than a day late,” said Laura.

    Ellas Drum will be missed and remembered by everyone in the family.

    “Everyone here has been involved with Ellas Drum; she used to make us laugh every winter when you went to worm her or it was time for vaccinations and you couldn’t catch her. I don’t know who will put the foals in their place when they wean them this winter,” said Laura.

    “It’s a bit of an end of an era because probably after she retired I didn’t carry on with the eventing so much, I’d always done a lot of showjumping, and when Anthony and I got together it made more sense that we focused on one discipline. We’ll all miss her; our eldest son Hector will miss her to bits, and especially my Mum.”

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