Final farewell to medal-winning para star who ‘made dreams come true’

  • A “true unicorn” who made medal-winning dreams come true and launched multiple riders’ careers has died aged 28.

    Lambrusco III was put down on Monday (1 November) after a long and distinguished career in which he won numerous medals under several riders and served as a schoolmaster to countless others.

    The son of Uniform was imported from the Netherlands as a young horse and competed up to prix st georges before he was spotted and bought by the late Jane Goldsmith in 2003. Jane was co-founder of the Para Dressage Training Trust, set up to provide developing para riders with horses until they were able to secure their own sponsorship.

    “Brusco” was ridden by Deb Criddle, then Ricky Balshaw took over his reins and competed at the 2003 World Championships. Anne Dunham also had the ride for a time and it was with the late Jo Pitt that the horse won his first championship medal, a silver at the 2005 Europeans.
    He joined the South Buckinghamshire branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) in 2007, and that same year impressed with Rory Williams at the World Championships at Hartpury, under the watchful eye of trainer Clive Milkins.

    The rules at the time meant that Rory and Brusco were riding in that grade for experience only, but had their scores counted, they would have won gold.

    In 2008, he gave Sophie Christiansen her first taste of Paralympic victory, winning both team and freestyle gold medals and taking individual silver at the Beijing Games in Hong Kong.

    “If a horse could define para dressage, it would be Lambrusco,” said Sophie, who also won team and individual gold with Brusco at the 2009 Europeans.

    “Not only did he enable me to fulfil my lifelong dream, but he took many others to championship level: Ricky Balshaw, Anne Dunham, Jo Pitt, Rory Williams and many others.

    “But it was the riders he helped at a lower level which was truly astounding, taking even more to national championships and internationals, including Mari Durward-Akhurst and Michael Murphy. He was a schoolmaster to countless others at South Bucks RDA and seeing riders’ eyes light up saying ‘I’ve just sat on a gold medallist’ was a joy to behold.

    “There will never be another horse like him, and thank you just doesn’t seem enough for Clive Milkins and myself – he made our careers. A true unicorn.”

    He retired from overseas internationals after his double gold medal-winning performance at the Norway Europeans in 2009, continuing to compete in home CPEDIs with multiple riders.

    Mari Durward-Akhurst, Susanna Wade, Michael Murphy and Alex Sutton all enjoyed international results with the grey superstar on British soil.

    “There will never be another horse like Brusco, he will never be replaced,” said Clive, who was stable manager and head coach at South Bucks RDA for 21 years.

    “He started my career, I travelled all over the world with him, and he was a schoolmaster who taught me how to care for an international horse properly.

    “He was the ultimate professional. I don’t think he was easy as a youngster but from the moment he was a para horse, he got on with his job. He was a noble, regal horse and in any given situation, he simply assessed it and coped.

    “He will be remembered for the medals, but also so much more.”

    Through his senior years, Brusco continued to bring joy to countless riders at his South Bucks RDA home.

    In 2018, he won the RDA Dressage Anywhere grade I championship with a 60-year-old stroke survivor and was also named RDA horse of the year.

    “A standout memory for me is his Lord of the Rings freestyle under the floodlights in Hong Kong (Beijing 2008),” added Clive.

    “It was such a huge atmosphere yet he just glanced at me, said ‘I got this, Dad!’ and kept on walking. From a team point of view and a coaching point of view, you knew he was going to produce. He was a horse that did the exact opposite of showing a rider’s weaknesses.

    “He was the horse of a lifetime and a horse that touched the lives of so many people. Kids doing therapy sessions would go home saying, ‘I’ve ridden a Paralympic champion!’.

    “He only recently retired from therapeutic riding and was still being ridden until a couple of weeks ago. The care and support under Di Redfern at South Bucks RDA has been phenomenal.

    “Thank you my friend, rest easy. Your legacy will not be forgotten.”

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