Darassas, who won Windsor CCI2* and finished 17th at Badminton with Lucinda Fredericks, has died.
The 25-year-old suffered from pulmonary edema — an excess collection of watery fluid in the lungs — and was put down yesterday (Monday, 23 March).
“We made him more comfortable and he did improve slightly from the drugs, but I didn’t want him to suffer with the high risk of him not pulling through,” said H&H blogger Coral Keen, who was Darassas’ last competition rider.
“He has enjoyed the past eight years being nanny to the youngsters and having lots of love affairs with the broodmares, so I hope he died a happy and content horse.”
Darassas also competed at FEI level under the name Biosthetique Esprit and as Espirit on British Eventing — he was renamed during a short-lived sale to Germany in 2004 when he was due to compete with Michael Jung, then a young rider. However, they didn’t click and he soon returned to the UK. He was always known by the stable name “Darley” although he kept the official names Biosthetique Esprit and Espirit.
Darley won Windsor CCI2* with Lucinda Fredericks in 1999 and was seventh at Boekelo CCI3* the same year. He was also seventh at Blenheim CCI3* in 2001 with Lucinda, going on to finish 17th at Badminton the following year.
He was eighth at Pau CCI3* that autumn before doing the dressage only at Badminton in 2003 — Lucinda then withdrew, announcing her pregnancy with daughter Ellie. Lucinda’s then husband Clayton took on the ride and the pair finished in the top 30 at Saumur and Blenheim CCI3*s.
When Darley returned from Germany in 2004 he was competed by Lucinda and Kate Jupp, before Coral bought him as a schoolmaster in 2005. The pair competed up to two-star level until the end of 2007 when Darley was retired at the age of 17.
“I had a wonderful time with him before he retired and he became a super granddad to our youngsters, keeping them in line,” said Coral. “He had a lovely three weeks back out in lovely new spring grass after being in the barn this winter. Although he was quirky, I adored him and had a huge amount of respect for him.”
Darley’s main quirk was a fear of being mounted, which developed after he had an accident as a youngster when he was spooked by someone wearing a crinkly coat getting on him from a milk crate.
Thereafter he needed twitching while he was being mounted. At one stage it was virtually impossible for him to be worked unless there was one person to twitch him and cover his eye and another to leg up the rider. Lucinda would sometimes remain mounted on him in the 10-minute box at long-format three-day events as she knew she couldn’t get back on in that sort of atmosphere.
“When I had him he was more relaxed about being mounted, but still needed the twitch so, as I was in a yard completely on my own, I used to poke it though the throat lash, get on, then quietly lean forward and release it before he realised I was actually on,” said Coral.
“He was never nasty about it, but he would have spun and become very frightened without his ‘dummy’ — the twitch wasn’t even tight. After time and with the one-to-one relationship we had, I was able to get on him on my own quietly, then in the end Dad could even leg me up at a event. However, I could never change my number bib or take off my coat while mounted.
“Having said all that, he was without a doubt the kindest, most sweet-natured horse I have known. Lucinda rode only him into her late stages of pregnancy and he was very safe once you were on top.”