‘I trusted her implicitly’: eventer pays tribute to ‘very special mare’

Flora Harris has paid tribute to the “very special”grey mare who played a major role in launching her career.

Amazing VIII, who had been with Flora since she was a four-year-old, was put down after sustaining a catastrophic injury on the cross-country at Millstreet CCI4*-S.

The 15-year-old gave Flora her first senior British team appearance at Fontainebleu Nations Cup in 2015 and the pair had numerous top-six results on the international circuit.

Incredibly, the quirky “Maisie” had come back from a three-year retirement to enjoy some of her best-ever eventing results over the last two years.

“She wasn’t a natural superstar, she just had an enormous heart,” Flora told H&H. “She was very, very special to us.

“I bought her from a really good dealer, the late Downes Howard, who sadly died earlier this year. I would have been about 20 or 21 years old and I went thinking I knew what I was doing and what I was looking for, when really I had absolutely no idea!”

The Adelante mare, owned by Flora’s mother Caroline, was tricky as a young horse, but the pair built a partnership together which blossomed over time.

“I have plenty of photographs of me falling off her,” said Flora. “She was very spooky and I sent her to a friend to ride her for a couple of weeks. I remember him saying to me ‘don’t worry, I’ve sorted her out, she will be better now’ and the day I brought her home she stopped with me again. I just had to form a partnership with her.

“It was about learning her, learning her ways and getting her to believe in me — I learnt I had to ride her like she was brilliant. If you ever rode her like she was going to stop, she would. If you believed in her, she was fantastic. We formed this partnership where I trusted her implicitly and across country she was the straightest, most wonderful horse to ride. That’s because I trusted in her and she trusted in me — we were a real team.”

The combination won Barbury CIC2* (now CCI3*-S) in 2013 and were sixth at Blenheim CIC3* that autumn, where Flora had her first sub-40 (old FEI scoring) dressage, before finishing second in the CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) at Blair Castle the following year.

In 2015, the mare sustained a serious tendon injury at Badminton and the family made the decision to retire her.

“My vet Hattie Lawrence did a really good job of treating her so she could be a brood mare,” said Flora, adding that unfortunately they were unable to get her in foal.

“She spent some time down with Diana Scott at Brendon Hills and then at Candle Trees Equestrian during her ‘retirement’ enjoying some beautiful Exmoor countryside. Then about three years into that she decided she didn’t fancy that any more and started jumping out of the fields.

“She was sound so I brought her back into work and we always said we would see how it went. From the word go she was back to her very best, if not even better than before her injury. Last season she was sixth at Millstreet and ninth at Waregem, then this year she was 13th at Chatsworth and third in Cappoquin.”

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Maisie also gave one of Flora’s students, Danielle McCormack, a spin around the rider’s first novice at Bicton in April.

“My head girl Charlotte Aitken, who has been with me eight years, was always very good with Maisie. They had a really good relationship and Charlotte really understood her much more than I think a lot of people would have done. She could be a really challenge, but Maisie just adored her,” she said.

I’m so grateful to her for everything she has done for me and for my career. I wouldn’t be were I am and wouldn’t have done the things I have if it wasn’t for her.”

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