Final farewell to ‘dream’ event pony

  • Much-loved European team event pony Glenayre Bay Surf has been put down at the age of 23 after suffering a sudden colic.

    The Connemara was one of the most consistent British pony trials performers between 2006 and 2008, winning the 2006 Pony Club championships with Nicola Whitmore and finishing 10th at the Pony European Championships in Avenches in 2008 ridden by Helen Dunning.

    Since 2016 he had been ridden by Flo Burnop, partnering her at her first affiliated event at the age of 11.

    “He had such a fan club countrywide and a very distinctive heart-shaped star, Flo always said it was like riding a pony celebrity,” Flo’s mother Helen told H&H.

    Although the bay gelding had retired from affiliated eventing, he was still competing lightly in inter-schools competitions as well as online dressage during lockdown.

    “We did try to retire him a few years ago but he was furious. He became really naughty and started jumping out of his field and he was really excited whenever he saw you carrying a saddle for someone else. We thought ‘OK, we get the message’ and brought him back into work,” Helen said.

    “Will” had been fit and well, and had been having fun jumping in the arena with his owner the day before he colicked on 31 December.

    “It was a real shock as he was so fit and had nothing wrong with him at all,” Helen said. “We always said he should go with a bang though, he wouldn’t have coped with becoming old and doddery, he was such a clever pony with such an active brain.

    “Flo was convinced he knew all the dressage tests and could probably do them on the buckle. Cross-country there was nothing you could throw at him that he couldn’t work out.”

    In 14 years of eventing, Will never had a cross-country jumping penalty.

    “Flo was only nine when she got him but she wanted to event and someone told us they knew of a brilliant pony that had been turned away for a few years doing nothing,” Helen said.

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    “She was tiny on him and not very effective at first. He knew and took good care of her. There were points where I would think she was going to fall off and he’d shift his shoulder and hoick her back on. He was a Pony Club dream pony,” Helen said. “The better she got though, the more he made her ride him.”

    The Burnops remained in touch with all of Will’s owners, from when he was first imported from Ireland until the time they bought him.

    “We have had some lovely messages. It shows you what a special boy he was,” said Helen, who now also owns a pony by the same grandsire, Mervyn Kingsmill, for Flo to event. “It was lovely to always have lots of support from them.”

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