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Five-star care, a 12hh ‘wife’ and new activities: top horse thriving in life after eventing

Sam Griffiths’ former stable star Happy Times is thriving in his retirement from eventing.

The 20-year-old Oldenberg gelding took the overall veteran title at Frome Show on 14 September and has been enjoying a five-star lifestyle with a quieter pace of life since stepping down from his international career.

“Happy” competed at international advanced level for 12 consecutive seasons, jumping around his first CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) at Barbury in July 2007 and competing at his last at Millstreet in August 2018.

He finished third at Burghley twice, completing the Lincolnshire five-star six times, and had his official retirement ceremony at the event in 2018. He also finished third and fourth at Badminton in 2009 and 2011, and scored CIC3* wins at Belton, Burnham Market and Chatsworth.

He is now living 10 minutes away from Sam’ s yard with Mouse Berry, one of the people who cared for him during his eventing career and groomed for him at the London 2012 Olympics.

Happy Times

Happy Times with Mouse Berry and his best friend, Bluebell. Photos courtesy of Saracen Horse Feeds and Rose Lewis (Daydream Equine Art)

“He went back to his owners and had six weeks’ holiday after retiring and then he came to me on 1 November last year,” Mouse told H&H.

“I spent a lot of time settling him and introducing him to hacking quietly, rather than with a view to fitness.”

She added it took a “bit of adjustment”, but he is very much enjoying his new life.

“He hacks out for pleasure now and I take him back to Sam’s twice a week for Charlotte Andrews [Sam’s head girl] to school and I’ve done a very small amount of riding club,” she said. “I took him to several shows just to stand and graze and realise that nothing exciting is going to happen.”

She explained that top eventers go to fewer and fewer shows when they are at the pinnacle of their careers, meaning the majority of the events they run at, they are there to be competitive. By taking him out with no pressure, she is introducing Happy to the idea that his role has changed.

“I have a 12hh pony called Bluebell, who is Happy’s ‘wife’ — we have always been a bit nervous of him with dogs, children and ponies, and now he loves all of them,” she said.

“He has taken to retirement far better than we ever thought he would and he is still treated like a five-star horse, nothing has really changed for him [in terms of his care] — Sam’s sponsors still help and he is just a few miles down the road from where he was. His owners Sam, Dinah Posford and Juliet Donald are incredibly generous to him. I’m very lucky to have him.”

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Sarah Gwuilliam rode Happy at Frome Show, where he won both his veteran section and the overall veteran title to take home a trophy.

“I would like to aim for [the veteran class at] Olympia for his 21st birthday, but I’m not going to tell him that!” she laughed. “It is really important for retired horses to have goals.”

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