‘He looked well till the end’: farewell to championship eventer

  • Eventer Michaelmas, one of the most consistent championship performers of the late 1990s and early 2000s, has been put down at the grand age of 32.

    The 16hh gelding, who was by the thoroughbred stallion Maori King out of a pony mare, was partnered by Greek rider Heidi Antikatzidis from the age of eight.

    The combination were the first to represent Greece in eventing at an Olympic Games.

    In his long career, Michaelmas recorded a brilliant run of top-10 finishes in championships, including seventh in the Europeans at Luhmühlen in 1999, sixth at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and narrowly missing out on a medal at Pau in 2001, when a rail down showjumping dropped him to fourth.

    The reliable bay also recorded two top-10 finishes at Badminton, finishing 10th on their first attempt in 1999 and sixth in 2002.

    “Mickie” retired sound at the age of 18 after the 2004 Athens Olympics, and spent a long and idyllic retirement in West Linton, Scotland with Heidi’s friend Heather McLennon.

    “I stopped eventing around the time he retired and moved back to Greece and Heather offered to keep him for me — I have known her for many years and she loved him to bits,” said Heidi.

    “We always kept in touch and I last visited him a year ago when I went to Scotland with my kids, he looked very well right until the end and was ridden until fairly recently. I think it must have been the pony in him that kept him going so long.”

    Heidi first encountered Mickie in Ireland as a seven-year-old while searching for a potential partner for the Atlanta Olympics, but decided he was too green, buying the horse Seawind instead.

    The following year, 1995, Seawind was injured and Heidi returned to John Lyttle in Ireland to buy Mickie as a replacement.

    “The first time I saw him, I wanted a horse ready to jump three- and four-stars and it was too early for him, although I had hesitated over him for a long time,” Heidi said. “The next year it was perfect timing and I just called up John and asked if he was still for sale, I didn’t even try him again.”

    The pair gelled quickly and he was an ideal match for Heidi, who at just 5ft tall suited a smaller horse.

    “He was quite easy for me to handle, although he was quite strong and a bit keen, he did what he was told and he really tried,” Heidi said.

    “He didn’t have the biggest scope, and would never wow you over a fence, but he jumped as big as he needed to and he was very courageous. Not many people thought he would make it to the level he did, including John, which is why he sold him.

    “In the dressage he was hard work but a cool horse,” she added. “If anything he was quite nonchalant.”

    The pair took on their first four-star (now five-star) in 1999 and their Badminton debut that year remains one of Heidi’s stand-out memories.

    “The Athens Olympics were wonderful, even though we fell and didn’t do so well there, he was very popular in Greece,” said Heidi, “But Badminton is every rider’s ambition.

    “That year it was pouring with rain, muddy and horrible and just getting round was an achievement. Being able to run on any going was one of his qualities.”

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    While a relatively straightforward horse, Mickie was not without his quirks, one of which was escaping from his stable at events if he had the slightest opportunity.

    “He got out one time at Thurlestane and galloped round for ages before we could catch him, luckily he never hurt himself!” she added.

    Heidi moved on to a “completely different life” in 2005 but said out of her rides, Mickie was undoubtedly “the one”.

    “He was my horse of a life time certainly, I couldn’t have asked for more from him,” she said. “I am happy he had the retirement he did and very grateful to Heather, who took great care of him right until the very end.”

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