‘Goodnight, my king – in dreams we’ll meet again’: five-star eventer put down after stable injury

  • Australian event rider Sarah Clark has paid a heartfelt final farewell to the horse who made her five-star dreams a reality, and was her “best mate”.

    LV Balou Jeanz, with whom Sarah completed Burghley twice and Adelaide CCI5*, had to be put down aged 14 this month, after he suffered serious wounds to a hind leg while in the stable at an event. Although at first it was hoped he could recover to enjoy retirement, because of the position of the wounds and after long discussions with vets, it was decided that the hardest decision had to be made in the horse’s best interests.

    “He was amazing,” Sarah told H&H. “He was the horse I needed to do what we did and to have found him and have had him is incredible.”

    Sarah took Jeanz on as a rising six-year-old and the pair went up the levels together from CCI* to the top.

    “From the first time I rode him to his last run, his strength was his desire to get between the flags,” she said. “He was unconventional and unorthodox; he didn’t have the tightest front legs and people would tell me he’d leave a front leg one day but I trusted him implicitly and he never gave me a feeling that he would tip up. He was so brave, and so clever, and for a big horse he was really quick-footed. And he just enjoyed it so much.”

    Sarah had grown up with the dream of one day competing at Badminton or Burghley, and as she and Jeanz progressed, jumping clear after clear at CCI4* level, she started to realise that he might be the horse to do it.

    “The process was quite gradual, of thinking this might actually be possible,” Sarah said. “Then it all happened quite fast, but it was incredible; particularly that first Burghley was amazing. I don’t think it dawned on me till the final day that we’d done it.

    “I’ve watched the video of that round over and over again and without doubt, going through the Leaf Pit was the best three seconds of the best 11 minutes of my life.

    “I’d clear a jump and be regathering my reins and recovering as he’d nearly jumped me off and I’d think ‘Oh my god, that was cool’! At each jump, I’d ticked the box and think ‘Wow, he’s done it easily’; as well as his strength, I think my moments of enjoying it all a bit much led to some time-penalties. But I was never there to win, just to have that experience.”

    Sarah Clark and LV Balou Jeanz are aiming for Badminton

    Sarah said Jeanz had his quirks under saddle; he was spooky, but brave, and strong. But he was well balanced on the flat, and she learnt that his way of jumping was his way of using his body.

    “The way I rode him facilitated that so we had a really good partnership and understanding,” she said. “I’m not the strongest rider but if I could cling to any horse to go round a big five-star, it would be him. He might have had better results with a stronger rider but he was the horse I needed to cling to. He was a gentleman on the ground; a real sweetie and best mate type.”

    Sarah added that if she were able to say anything to Jeanz, it would simply be “thank you”.

    “I’ve had issues with my mental and physical health and have had times when I’ve wondered what’s the point of getting up every day and he gave me that,” she said. “He gave me a reason to get up, and then made me think these things were possible, and then actually did them. So I would just say ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’, and I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”

    In a statement, Sarah added: “How do you say goodbye to someone you can’t imagine life without? How do you thank a lost best friend, who made your world whole and fulfilled your life’s purpose? I cannot. So I simply say goodnight, my king, for in dreams we shall meet again.”

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