‘He won the hearts of everyone who met him’: Farewell to top working hunter who competed at HOYS and the RIHS for 15 years

  • Top working hunter contender Carnsdale Top Gun has been put down aged 27 after a bout of colic.

    Owned by Joanne Shaw, “Blackman” was one of the most consistent working hunter campaigners, competing at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS) for 15 years.

    Blackman was discovered by Shelly Argyle as a three-year-old at Cavan Horse Sales and he began his showing career as a 15hh working hunter pony under Katie Druggan.

    As a five- and six-year-old he jumped to second and third at HOYS in the 15hh working hunter pony of the year final. After measuring out, Blackman returned as an intermediate, going on to win HOYS in 2004.

    “He was one of the most consistent intermediates on the circuit and was never out of the top eight,” said Joanne, who bought Blackman from the Druggan family in 2005. “He took on the biggest and most technical courses with ease.”

    Joanne developed her partnership with Blackman with help from the late Jane Beswick.

    “He had a quirky nature and a lot of people found him difficult to understand,” she added. “But we developed a bond which would give us a lot of success over the next 17 years.”

    Joanne and Blackman’s tally included winning the Desert Orchid final two years in a row, multiple Gold Cup wins and championships, including at the BSPS summer championships and Cheshire County, and several England working hunter team appearances, a final they won in 2010.

    In 2013, Joanne’s sister Jennifer Keepe took over Blackman’s reins and piloted him for one season before he retired at HOYS aged 19, having placed third.

    “In 2015, he came out of retirement to represent New Zealand in the [British Show Pony Society] BSPS international working hunter team, ridden by Chloe Akers,” said Joanne. “He was then chosen as horse personality of the year by the BSPS.

    “Blackman was a horse who really enjoyed his job, so in 2016, Immy Kennedy showjumped him and they came away with many ribbons, including a second at the Scope Festival. He spent his final years enjoying the fields at home and Saturday morning adventures out hacking.”

    “He was a one in a million horse and an absolute horse of lifetime. What made him truly special was not the prizes, but his character and personality. Once he learned to give kisses, it became a lifetime habit and they would be given to anyone passing by his stable. He always greeted you with a happy face and a whinny over the door. He won the hearts of everyone who met him and left a mark on all those close to him.”

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