Farewell to champion Irish draught and ‘horse of a lifetime’

  • A champion Irish draught with a show-stopping gallop has died aged 16.

    Castlerock (“Rocky”) was owned by Susan and Robin Hill.

    The Crosstown Dancer gelding was bought by the Hills as an unbroken three-year-old and produced by Susan.

    During his long career he was awarded champion Irish draught on numerous occasions and took the family to Horse of the Year Show three times as a heavyweight hunter.

    Rocky finished his 2017 season winning the Irish draught and supreme championships at Dorset County Show in September.

    Mrs Hill explained how she came to own the gelding.

    “We went over to Ireland for our ruby wedding anniversary and came back with a three-year-old,” she told H&H.

    “We were looking for something to do hunter classes with. We hadn’t taken the draught aspect on then.”

    Rocky started showing the following year.

    “I happened to be sitting next to the secretary of the Irish Draught Horse Society, Annie Holbeche, at our first show at Newbury,” said Mrs Hill.

    “Annie said: ‘That four-year-old will be nice one day’, when she saw Rocky. I told her he was a pure Irish draught and she said I should register with the society and do draught classes. It grew from there.”

    Rocky was initially shown by Susan and then her daughter, Victoria Hannington.

    “He had a wonderful career but it wasn’t all plain sailing to start with,” said Mrs Hill.

    “The first time I took him to Suffolk County Show I was bucked off in the warm-up the night before our class. I got up the next morning, warmed him up and went in the ring and he won his class and the championship.

    “We learned how to manage him. Whenever we got to a show he went out on the lunge and turned himself inside out. People would say, ‘You’re not going to ride that?’, but we would put his tack on and get in the ring and amaze.

    “He was popular for his ride and gallop. He would always come up the lineup in the championships because of his spectacular gallop. He never got wild.”

    Rocky was kept at the Hills’ home in Alton and in his later years acted as a nanny for younger horses.

    “He was practically fearless and will go past anything hacking,” said Mrs Hill.

    “He could look straight into the kitchen from his stable and I would have to draw the blinds as whenever he saw me he thought he was getting his breakfast.”

    Continued below…

    Rocky was put down last month after complications following colic surgery.

    “Liphook [Equine Hospital] couldn’t have been nicer,” added Mrs Hill.

    “He was sound, fit and working until the day we lost him. He was the horse of a lifetime.”

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