Heartbreak as British team gold medallist dies: ‘He was cheeky, but never malicious’

  • Idalgo, who finished second at Badminton and won a European team gold medal with William Fox-Pitt in 2009, has been put down, aged 22.

    Alex van Tuyll was working for William Fox-Pitt when “Frog”, who belonged to George and Jayne Apter, arrived in July 2003 and had looked after him ever since. He retired from eventing in 2010 and spent his final eight years with Alex, hunting with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale and the South Dorset. He also occasionally acted as a field master’s mount for Alex’s sister Helen.

    “He loved hunting and was awesome, absolutely amazing,” Alex told H&H.

    Alex explained that Frog became quickly unwell last Friday (2 November).

    “He went out happy as Larry on Friday morning, then came in later and wasn’t right. We called the vet and thought it was colic to start with, but he went downhill fast. I rang William and the Apters, but I wasn’t going to let him suffer and he went downhill so fast there was no decision to be made. I am heartbroken; he was a massive part of the family.”

    Alex said when Frog arrived, he was a “taller, leggier version of Stunning”, another chestnut owned by the Apters.

    “He was wild, like a fire-breathing dragon,” she said. “In his later years he calmed down slightly, but he had a fiery side and would get a wild look in his eye, toss his head and off he’d go. You had to hang on tight. He was never naughty or malicious, just cheeky. He was never out to hurt you. Life was a bit of a game to him.”

    Alex said in his later years Frog amused himself with antics such as jumping out of the field and eating chicken food.

    The Selle Français was initially competed internationally by French double European champion Nicolas Touzaint, finishing third in his first CCI*. Having joined William Fox-Pitt in 2003, he finished fifth in the seven-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers that year.

    In 2005 the big chestnut by Oredo De Paulstrahan was second at Bramham CCI3* and the following spring he won a CIC3* at Burnham Market. He led after cross-country at Punchestown that year, but had to have stitches in his knee and so was withdrawn before showjumping.

    “He was a long way in the lead, but he wasn’t sound in the morning,” said Alex. “He never really had a big win to his name, which he did deserve.”

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    The horse was “the kindest soul”, who was “absolutely lovely” as well as being “hugely talented”, according to his rider

    Frog made his four-star debut at Burghley that autumn, finishing 19th. He went on to finish 11th at Pau in 2008 and the following year achieved his best result when he took second place at Badminton. He was selected for the British team for the European Championships at Fontainebleau, France, where he finished fourth individually and took team gold.

    “When he was at his peak and conquering all, my wife Jayne and I loved watching him  — there was no greater sight than seeing William riding him in all his glory,” said Idalgo’s owner George Apter.

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