‘He was loved all his years’: farewell to 31-year-old pony who won ‘everything there was to win’

  • The offspring of a family pony and a former racehorse who went on to win “everything there was to win” has died aged 31 at the home of his breeders.

    Miami Bound, whose riders included Ellen, George and Thomas Whitaker, competed at pony European Championships, won back-to-back Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) pony showjumper of the year titles and a pony newcomers final. He had spent a happy retirement with his dam Gypsy (pictured with him, below), who died two years ago aged 35, and being a family pony himself.

    Katie Stovell, daughter of breeder John Boam, told H&H her father put Gypsy in foal between Katie’s sister outgrowing her and Katie growing into her.

    “Breeding a jumping pony wasn’t thought about,” she said. “But there was a thoroughbred stallion locally; a gutsy horse who had won a couple of races but was just a bit small, so my dad took her to him.”

    The result was a grey who matured at just under 14.2hh, and was sold as a three-year-old to local breeder Hugh Patterson.

    “His granddaughter Heather did Pony Club with him and started off his jumping, but did everything with him,” she said. “They were winning everything locally after a couple of years.”

    After Heather grew out of him, “Misty” was sold to Les Squibb, whose daughter Lauley rode him to victory in the pony newcomers final at HOYS. He went to Ellen, with whom he won the Scope Festival pony Foxhunter championship and came second in the HOYS pony showjumper of the year, after which he was sold to Ireland for Nicola Fitzgibbon to ride.

    “He won everything there was to win with her,” said Katie.

    This included taking Nicola to the European Championships, winning the national pony title two years running and becoming a six-bar and two-fence champion.

    Steven Whitaker later bought him back and he won the HOYS title with Thomas in 2006 and George in 2007, and in 2008 he was ridden by Donald Whitaker.

    Katie said her family kept track of Misty’s career and knew he had later moved to Norway, where he enjoyed more showjumping success.

    “Then out of the blue, the family who had him got in contact to say would we like him to retire with us,” she said. “My dad was in tears because it was such a fairytale to have him back, full circle. We had photos of him throughout his career on the walls and we were so proud of him so to have him back was really special.”

    Since his return in 2015, Misty had been ridden by Katie’s young children, and acted as companion to some of his younger relatives.

    “They’ve got big shoes to fill,” Katie said. “He was a lovely character to have around, a bit cheeky and so knowing; he was almost human.”

    Misty became the subject of a book almost by chance; the family was piecing together where he had been and what he had done, and “Dad thought he’d write something so we’d remember it all”, Katie explained. The book Miami Bound is available online.

    Katie added that tributes have poured in on Misty’s Facebook page, as the pony was known and loved by so many people.

    “Heather, who rode him at the start, would come and see him; she loved the fact he was here as he’d been her friend through her parents’ separation; he wasn’t just a pony, he was a best friend,” she said.

    “The week before he died, she came over with her son Ross, who’s just started riding, and he had a little hack down the road on him, so she rode him first and her son was about the last. It is incredible how loved he was throughout all his years.”

    On 6 June, Misty was lying down in his field and the vet said his heart was failing. He died peacefully with his family around him.

    Nicola Fitzgibbon said she was heartbroken by the news.

    “I was so blessed to have had this very special pony in my life,” she said. “He was a sensational athlete and a wonderful character as well. As heartbreaking as it is to lose him, seeing photos of him from just one week ago showing yet another generation the joys of riding makes me incredibly happy. Thank you Katie Stovell for giving him a wonderful last few years. Rest easy Misty.”

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