‘He brought so much joy’: farewell to horse who launched five-star riders’ careers

  • Tributes have been paid to the horse that launched numerous five-star event riders’ careers and who Olympic gold medallist Laura Collett rode to her first international win.

    Walnut (“Wally”), owned by the Caldin family, died aged 33 on 8 December following a solid career teaching young riders the ropes and a happy retirement nannying young horses.

    “He was a total legend,” Laura told H&H. “I feel very honoured to have ridden him.”

    She said she knew Wally from his days with Simon Lucey in Pony Club. At the time, Laura was riding Noble Springbok and training with Simon’s mum, Mandy.

    “Mandy offered me the ride on him, which was a great honour. He did everything very easily, he knew his job. He came with two instructions: hold the right rein, and kick – as long as you did that, you were away.”

    The pair twice won the junior regional novice championship title in the CCI* (now CCI2*-S) at Weston Park in 2004 and 2005, as well as two Pony Club championship crowns. In all, they never finished outside the top three.

    “I did my first three-day-event on him at Weston Park, which was the last time they did steeplechase, and it was great to have that kind of experience. I probably took it for granted the first couple of seasons, as I had him and Fernhill Socks, who was amazing as well, and then reality hits of how difficult it is to win!” Laura said.

    She added that returning to Weston and defending their title was one of her fondest memories.

    “That was amazing and was probably one of the biggest highlights I had on him,” she said.

    “He came with an instruction manual; the Luceys knew him inside out and he did exactly what he said on the tin. All in all he was a complete gentleman and as long as you were aware of his little quirks, he was as easy as pie.”

    Wally also started the career of five-star riders Imogen Gloag and Nick Lucey, living out his days as a much-loved nanny to the young horses at Nick’s yard.

    NicK told H&H Wally was one of those special horses who can be competitive in the under-18s and equally happy to join in the fun at Pony Club camp.

    “He was very much the sort of horse that you could do anything with,” he said, adding that Wally also “loved a day’s hunting”.

    “He had a very good jump, you just had to kick. He was a good horse to learn to ride on.”

    And Wally taught countless students to riding, enjoying life as a schoolmaster into his late 20s, when he retired to nanny young horses full-time.

    In a tribute to Wally on his Facebook page, Nick said he had a “busy life full of events, love and digestive biscuits”.

    “He boasts an impressive 30 double clears round novices and old CCI*s. He is a reminder to everyone who is looking for big, flashy horses to jump round novices that a 15.1 Irish cob with feathers and unknown breeding beat everyone else,” he said.

    “He was truly a legendary little horse, with a huge heart who brought so much joy to so many people.”

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