‘A tough decision but the right one for him’: four-star winner to retire from eventing

  • Young eventer Elizabeth Barratt has paid tribute to Dargun as the 16-year-old gelding retires from eventing to pursue dressage.

    Dargun was a former top ride of Emily King, and later Piggy March, before the Barratt family bought him for Elizabeth during her final year on ponies in 2021.

    “I was doing pony trials and pony two-stars with Noble Superman, and my parents thought Dargun would be a really good horse for me to learn from,” 18-year-old Elizabeth told H&H.

    “In the beginning it was not the easiest, which is no secret. He was quite particular with his showjumping and liked me to get it right – which was fair as he was an experienced horse and teaching me to ride him properly. But it really helped me in the long run, and while riding tricky horses can be frustrating at times, it’s so good for experience and learning.

    “He was always really good in the dressage, if you asked him to do something correctly he would always do it. He taught me to ride all the movements for the three-star tests and taught me flying changes, and to have a horse like that to learn from at a young age made such a difference to my riding.”

    Before joining Elizabeth, Dargun had competed to CCI5* level. He won team gold at the young rider Europeans with Emily King in 2015, and they were Bramham u25 champions in 2018. After Emily’s owner Jane Del Missier moved away from the sport in 2019, Dargun joined Piggy March’s string. Piggy and Dargun were second at the Little Downham CCI4*-S in October 2020, and won the Burnham Market CCI4*-S in April 2021.

    “By the end of our first season together we jumped double clear round our first CCI2*-S, at Bicton, which was amazing given I hadn’t had him very long,” said Elizabeth.

    “I had a few lessons with Piggy, and Emily would always ask about him, so it was really nice they could see him out at events. The longer I had him we got stronger as a partnership, and each event we got to know each other that little bit better. He can be quite a complex little character and was quite quiet when we first got him, but as I got to know him he really brought out his personality and he was such a funny horse to have around and really loving.”

    Dargun continued to teach Elizabeth the ropes and their best result came in September 2023 when they won the Cornbury young rider CCI3*-S.

    “That was a real highlight. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it as I hadn’t done a lot of intermediates with him, and he performed so well,” she said.

    “He gave me my first proper big win which was so exciting, and then a few weeks later I did my first three-star long at Osberton. To be able to jump around those bigger tracks on a horse like him was just amazing.”

    Elizabeth and Dargun started their 2024 season at Poplar Park, but the decision was made to call time on his eventing career.

    “He just sort of told us that he wasn’t really enjoying it anymore, and wasn’t quite jumping as well as he had been. We thought while he’s happy, fit and healthy, we’ll retire him so he can do another job,” said Elizabeth. “It was a tough decision but we knew it was the right one for him.”

    Dargun has now joined junior rider Megan Fields to pursue a second career in dressage, and will return to the Barratts when he retires.

    “It was sad to see him go but it was really nice knowing he’s going to do something that he enjoys, and then he’ll come home to us,” said Elizabeth.

    “It hasn’t always been straightforward but I’ve learned so much, and I definitely wouldn’t change anything about it.”

    Elizabeth will continue her season with Georgina W and new horse Fernhill Kankan, a former ride of Jonelle Price.

    “I’ve had Georgina since last year and I just got Fernhill Kankan in April so I’m really looking forward to doing a bit more with her,” said Elizabeth.

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