“He’s been like a son to me — he even came to my wedding,” said leading native pony producer Sarah Parker of Pumphill Buckthorn, the Olympia triple-crown winner who has been retired from the show ring.
The 13-year-old Dartmoor stallion is going to live with his owner, Sue Hughes, and will carry out stud duties. He will not be ridden again.
Buck’s swansong was the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) this month, where he finished fourth in the 122cm mountain and moorland (M&M) working hunter pony of the year championship.
He also headed the equivalent class at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) in July.
The prolific 12hh native pony’s impressive record includes being the dual champion at HOYS and M&M champion at Olympia in 2010, as well as standing M&M champion at RIHS and M&M supreme at HOYS in 2011.
“I’ve cried days on end knowing he was going. The bond I have with him, I doubt I’ll have it with any other pony,” said Sarah, who started riding “Buck” eight years ago when Sue asked her to try him for two weeks to see whether he liked jumping.
“I’ve never met a pony with such a big heart and probably never will. He always tries his best.”
As well as his success in M&M working hunter pony and flat classes, Buck, by Stonehealed Vulcan out of Pumphill Belladonna, has been a firm favourite at Sarah’s Shropshire yard due to his kind demeanour.
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Buck even attended Sarah and her husband Simon’s wedding in 2011, wearing top hat and tails, and liked to go inside the couple’s house.
“I’ll always remember when, during a very cold winter, it was minus 18°C. We had to get Buck ready for Olympia, so we washed him outside and then brought him in and tied him to the Aga so that he could dry off for a couple of hours,” recalls Sarah.
“I’m really going to miss him.”