‘I’ll miss him greatly’: former showing champion dies aged 25

  • Showing owner Sue Smith has said goodbye to her “horse of a lifetime” Imperial Imp at the age of 25.

    The heavyweight hunter was predominantly ridden by David Tatlow and had a prolific career under saddle until his retirement in 2003.

    His county championship wins included Great Yorkshire, East of England, Bath and West and the Royal; while at Royal Windsor he claimed the Horse & Hound British Isles heavyweight hunter championship in 2000, also taking titles there in 1997 and 1999.

    “Basically old age got the better of him,” said Sue. “In his retirement he was the greatest companion to me. He was without question the most personable chap.

    “His love of people, his kindness, his outstanding ‘armchair’ ride gave us such pleasure and I will miss him greatly.”

    Bred in Ireland by George Chapman, the 17hh bay was by Master Imp out of a mare called Sea Trumps.

    Sue bought the gelding as a four-year-old in 1992 at the Royal Dublin horse show, where he instantly stood out for his sociable and laid-back character.

    “After I bought him I went back to his box and he was lying down, completely cool and calm with all that atmosphere and everything going on around him — which is the way you want a show horse to be,” Sue said.

    “Impy” also proved the consummate showman, always enjoying performing in front of the crowds.

    “He was ridden at one of the Queen Mother’s celebrations at Horse Guards and was paraded in her colours. He was so personable, he loved every second of that,” she added.

    A dark moment in his career came in the championship at the Royal International, when Impy had to be trailered out of the main arena after suddenly pulling up lame.

    “He looked as if he’d broken his leg, it was the end of my world that day,” Sue said. “We took him to the Animal Health Trust where the injury was nurtured and he did come back.

    “We never did find exactly what had happened but he was a big heavyweight and we put it down to general strain,” she added.

    After his retirement in 2003, Impy mostly enjoyed hacking and was kept as a companion in his later years.

    “My grandchildren also rode him and one of my daughters took him in side-saddle classes. He was exceptional,” said Sue.

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