Heartbreak as top rider loses four-star eventer to injury

  • The event horse Cool Dancer, who jumped double clear at both Badminton and Burghley in 2013 with Olivia Wilmot, has been put down after suffering an injury while he was turned out.

    “I’m heartbroken – he really was part of my family,” said Olivia, who owned 16-year-old “Axil” with her mother Carolyn Haddow and Liz Knowler.

    Cool Dancer with Olivia’s son Hunter

    “He came in last Monday [6 November] with what looked like a deep cut on his leg. But his lameness didn’t improve so we X-rayed it and found a tiny crack on a bone.

    “Over the weekend, his leg shattered, and he was put down on Sunday.”

    Olivia bought Axil, a son of Duca Di Busted, as a five-year-old from Hayley Rose.

    “I loved him and instantly felt we had a connection, but interestingly when I showed the video to other people, they didn’t particularly like him, so it took a couple of weeks to commit to buying him,” Olivia told H&H.

    “He was a real character – cheeky, but just so kind. He would never think to bite or kick, and I trusted him completely with my children. I didn’t compete when I was pregnant but I continued riding him at home because we knew each other so well and I trusted him so much.”

    Olivia’s older son Hamish has a ride

    Cool Dancer won a total of 498 British Eventing points.

    “He was so big and scopey as a young horse that he was actually a bit of a ‘doofus’ – he stepped over everything and barely looked like he left the ground!” said Olivia. “He turned a corner at two- and three-star and became the horse I knew he would be.”

    The pair won Ballindenisk’s CCI2* in 2010 on their dressage score.

    “He hated dressage with a passion – it just bored him,” said Olivia. “He wanted to gallop and jump. I remember his first CCI3* at Bramham in 2011 – he scored 62.8 in the dressage, which included some ones and twos, but he jumped a double clear round and was only one second over the time across country.”

    After finishing ninth at Bramham in 2012, Axil and Olivia completed their first Burghley that autumn, and in 2013 were the only partnership to achieve double clear rounds at both Badminton and Burghley that year.

    “In every cross-country photo I have of us, I have a smile on my face and his ears are pricked,” said Olivia. “I will never forget jumping the Vicarage Vee at Badminton on him in 2016, or going the direct route at the Dairy Mound at Burghley last year. If I got him vaguely near a fence at roughly the right speed, he would always jump it.”

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    They finished in the top 10 at many top British events, including the Open Championships at Gatcombe. Olivia gave birth to her second son earlier this year, and returned to eventing for the later part of the season, finishing third in Blair Castle’s CIC3* and eighth in the CIC3* at Ballindenisk.

    “He will be impossible to replace,” said Olivia.

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