‘He owed me nothing’: four-star event horse dies

  • Joli Figaro, the former four-star ride of Vicky Jolly-Laing, has died, aged 25.

    “Figgy” jumped round Burghley twice and had countless three- and two-star completions under his belt, the highlight being placed ninth in the CCI3* in Pratoni, Italy in 2007.

    “He loved his job and was like a man possessed in the start box,” said Vicky who bought Figgy as a rising six-year-old in 1999. “He was a pleasure to ride, although sitting trot was a bit like being sat on a sewing machine. But cross-country he was snaffle-mouthed and didn’t even need a martingale — I could have been sat upside down and backwards on him across country and he would still jump between the flags.”

    Vicky found Figgy through Antonia Brown.

    “I was training with Toni at the time and she rang me to say she’d found a horse she thought I might like,” explained Vicky. “All I wanted was a nice all-rounder to introduce me to affiliated eventing and I fell in love with him straight away. We did Pony Club and even dressed him up in tinsel for Christmas rallies. We never thought he would go beyond intermediate, but he just kept going and going — he was so genuine and you could put anyone on him. He loved the trot-up and the more clapping, the better — he was a very proud horse.”

    Figgy was out of a Danish mare, by the Belgian warmblood showjumping stallion, Joli Coeur.

    “He had no thoroughbred blood at all and he hated having to get fit for the big events — his nickname was ‘Fat Figs’ as he was a very good doer!” said Vicky.

    In the stable, Figgy was a real character.

    “He was a grumpy old fart, and if he were human, he would have been a wise old man who sat in the corner of the pub in a cravat, smoking a pipe,” said Vicky. “The fitter he was, the worse he was while being groomed — you had to watch his back legs! He also knew when it was 4pm and time to come in from the field — if you tried to get him in before that time, he wouldn’t let you catch him.”

    Vicky retired Figgy from top level competition in 2010 and her groom Helen Tomlin enjoyed taking him around a handful of lower level events before he was fully retired in 2011.

    “He had tendon problems in one hoof and in the end that’s what stopped him from competing,” explained Vicky. “But he owed me nothing. I tried hunting him but he went along with his head on the floor which wasn’t much fun! He retired to the field, but hated being in with youngsters, so he was always out with older horses.”

    Continued below…

    In a statement on her Facebook page on Tuesday (30 May), Vicky wrote: “Absolutely heartbreaking morning. My wonderful horse Joli Figaro (Figgy) has sadly passed away. He took me from Pony Club to Burghley, making team selections on the way. He died in the field in my arms before the vet could get here.We have just had a bottle of bubbles to honour him. Goodbye my grumpy old boy.”

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