‘He was still flying’: tributes paid to ‘legendary’ mounted games pony

  • A “legendary” mounted games pony who qualified for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) 14 times has died at the age of 29.

    Nipper, a part-bred New Forest, was part of the winning team on six occasions — first with Poole Pony Club ridden by Ben Hughes and then five times as part of the Oakley Hunt West branch.

    The bay gelding was owned by Holly Shaw (nee Howsam) from 1999 until he was put down after colicking last month.

    “He was a really great pony who was very well known in the mounted games world — not many have competed as long and as successfully as him,” said Holly’s mother Carol. “He was smart with a leg in each corner and my daughter always said ‘I wish I could find a horse like him’ — he was a real allrounder.”

    While he went on to have a superb track record, Carol recalled how she had watched the pony compete not long after they bought him — only for his team to come last.

    “Initially his owners weren’t going to sell him, but they changed their mind and we tried him and did a deal,” Carol said. “We went to see him and [then Oakley team trainer] Maureen Thomas said ‘which pony is it you’ve bought?’ I said ‘the little bay’. It was in a bending race and he wouldn’t go up the arena because of the spotlights shining on the poles.

    “He was only nine then and Maureen said laughing ‘you’ve really bought a good one Carol’!”

    “He went on to do really well and enjoyed what he did — the only other time I remember him having a problem was a race involving squeaky millennium bugs you had to put in a dish, he was petrified of the noise. He also objected to the ostriches at HOYS in Birmingham when he ran up the arena and wouldn’t come back down. He could be a bit of a character.”

    After Holly outgrew Nipper, he was loaned out to members of the Oakley Hunt West branch of the Pony Club, where he continued to compete in their mounted games team. He was still being ridden aged 29 and was in good health, taking part in a local show only a few days before he died.

    “He carried on competing in the Oakley right up until four or five years ago — we had always loaned him out to people connected with the Pony Club, but at that point there wasn’t anyone we still knew,” said Carol. “He went to a friend in North Warwickshire for a little girl there and she had him four years.”

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    Carol said she had seen Nipper recently when he came to a charity show at her house on 13 July.

    “We were holding a show for the Tim Stockdale Foundation and he was competing that weekend in the juniors — everyone remarked how well he looked,” she said.

    “On that Sunday he got to see Holly, my goddaughter who used to ride him, another girl from his Pony Club days back in 2000 and Maureen, so that was really nice.

    “Then on the Tuesday morning I got a phonecall to say that he had been turned out at 7am and at 7.30am he’d gone down in the field — they called the vet and she thought something had twisted. It was just one of those things.

    “He had always been the picture of health and at the point where he was put down he was still flying,” she added. “He’d had a good life and everyone who had him looked after him very well.”

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