‘The yard is so quiet without him’: Young horse champion and grand prix prospect put down aged eight

  • Hannah Biggs’ 2019 six-year-old national champion Freeman has been put down aged eight. 

    The Foundation x Ehrenstolz gelding claimed the prestigious young horse title at the National Dressage Championships two years ago, and was on the brink of making his debut at small tour level when he became ill.

    “It seems something triggered an auto-immune response in his body that caused catastrophic inflammation,” explained Hannah. “We still don’t have a definitive answer, but although euthanasia was the most horrible thing, it was the right thing for him.”

    Freeman was found by Hannah at the Westphalian elite auction in Germany in 2016, and bought for her to ride by David Johnson of Equine Construction. After David’s death in March 2020, Freeman passed into the ownership of Hannah and Sarah Johnson.

    Since teaming up in 2017, Hannah and Freeman have been regional champions at medium and twice finished third at the level at the Winter Dressage Championships

    “We were training the grand prix work at home and he was all ready to come out at small tour at the start of next year,” said Hannah. 

    “He was like a Ferrari without brakes – the most powerful thing I’ve ridden and I’ll miss that feeling terribly,” she added. “Slowly we built up a bond where he trusted me and learned to control his power; in the early days he was a bit of a bull in a china shop, not in a nasty way at all, just because he didn’t know how to switch off his enormous power. But there was always this feeling that whenever he stepped into an arena everyone stopped to watch him. He had that presence, even just walking around the yard.

    “One of our highlights was just at home when he learned to control all his legs going over raised trot poles, and again when he trusted me enough to relax after doing some piaffe. 

    “Competition-wise, winning the national six-year-old championship was a highlight, and also our very last test together [at the Winter Dressage Championships in July 2021]. He trusted me enough to relax in the championship environment and I trusted him enough to put my foot down in the extensions. We floated round that arena like it was the easiest thing in the world and what he was born to do. He was as comfortable there as he was in his field at home.”

    Hannah had hoped Freeman would be the horse to help her return to the British team, after the retirement of her international grand prix winner Weltzin in 2015. 

    “It is devastating – I’ve lost my best friend, who was also my reason to get up in the mornings. I do have two lovely yearlings at home from Caledonia Sport Horses, as well as a five-year-old owned by myself, Tanya Brown and Laura Humphreys, and a seven-year-old owned by Ada Bjordahl, but I will definitely now be on the hunt for Freeman’s successor,” she said.

    “In the stable, Freems would put his head into your arms for cuddles, and was the first one to whinny when he saw me from the field, or when he heard my front door open in the morning. The yard is so, so quiet without him.

    “I just feel very grateful that I got to have five years with him. This sort of thing really makes you appreciate your horses, and the days you have with them.”

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