Former top eventer put down: ‘He hated dressage, but put up with my mistakes’

  • Kings Berry, who was placed in the top 12 twice at CCI3*s and kicked off the career of Scottish four-star rider Louisa Milne Home, was put down when “old age caught up with him” last month (Sunday, 25 June), aged 26.

    Louisa’s aunt, Pam Ingleby, bought “Gol” as a four-year-old from Les Moorhouse to ride herself, but offered the ride to a 16-year-old Louisa when she injured her back.

    Although Gol always struggled in the dressage phase, the pair went right up through the grades, finishing 12th at Blair CCI3* in 2003 and 10th in the same class in 2005.

    “We decided not to go to Burghley and to wait for Badminton, then he got an injury and missed it — we should have taken the chance to go four-star when we had it as he was an out and out jumper and definitely made for big tracks, so it’s a shame he never had a four-star run,” said Louisa.

    Until they reached intermediate level, Louisa could hardly canter a 20m circle on Kings Berry without him bucking his way round it.

    “Every time I asked for a flying change he’d kick out and it was always a bit worrying that he might kick the judge’s car,” said Louisa. “It was always a bit of a worry getting past X at the start too as he would stand up [rear] there, although he never tried to do it anywhere else.

    “He hated dressage — he was so long it was really uncomfortable. But he wasn’t naughty, he just couldn’t move. He tried so hard and although he could do the movements, he just sort of had to shuffle through them. Carl Hester taught me occasionally and would say: ‘Don’t let anyone know I taught you dressage on that dinosaur.’ Les Smith helped me a lot too and put up with his terrible dressage.”

    But Gol made up for his limitations in the first phase by being an “amazing” cross-country horse.

    “He was quite a heavy horse and looked like he wouldn’t shift, but he could really gallop,” said Louisa. “The year he was third in the advanced at Auchinleck [2003] three horses had been put down on course before I’d gone and I was definitely nervous, but he was unbelievably bold.”

    Gol suffered from navicular from quite early in his advanced career, but egg bar shoes and gel pads meant he “never looked back”.

    As well as his Blair CCI3* results, Gol also went to Bramham CCI3* twice, but the first time was withdrawn with a foot abscess and the second time he had a virus and was retired.

    “I know now when a horse has a virus and not to run, but Gol was where all the learning was done,”said Louisa. “He was a typical first horse and it’s amazing where they take you and what they teach you. He had to put up with all my mistakes. And him being such an amazing cross-country horse, I learnt a huge amount from him which has stood me in good stead.”

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    Gol retired in 2005, having had a couple of injuries and returned to his owner Pam’s home at Aswanley. Pam lent him to a girl to do a 2ft 9in hunter trial at Burgie, but he wouldn’t jump the first fence.

    “I’m quite proud of him for that as he was point and go across country with me, but was obviously saying he wouldn’t do 2ft 9in with someone else,” said Louisa. “He lived his retirement merrily at Aswanley and had a cheery time, being pulled out for the odd ride.”

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