‘A privilege to ride on your wings’: top mare retires from competition aged 17

  • HH Azur, the phenomenal ride of US showjumper McLain Ward, has retired from competition aged 17.

    The announcement came yesterday (2 July) after McLain pulled HH Azur up during the first round of the Rolex grand prix, when the pair knocked down the second and third fences. Going into Aachen, McLain was the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, having scored back-to-back grand prix wins at CHI Geneva and then the Dutch Masters, with “Annie”.

    “Dear Annie, I knew this day would come but somehow you always were able to reach deep inside and achieve greatness time and time again,” said McLain.

    “We all know there comes a time when your mind and body disagree but it is still hard to let go. You have given all of us so much but it’s time to say goodbye to our sport and retire in good health.”

    Annie was bred in Belgium by Nathalie Beaufort, and was competed in young horse classes by Nathalie’s husband Pedro Nolasco. When she was bought by Francois Mathy in 2014, Annie’s international career began with Francois’ rider Perez Bilbao, before she was flown to America in early 2015 to begin her career with McLain, under the co-ownership of Double H Farm.

    McLain and Annie’s first international victory together was a CSI5* 1.50m at Spruce Meadows in June 2015. The pair’s first team event was the Rome leg of the Nations Cup the following year, where they won the grand prix and helped Team USA to second place in the team competition. They made their Olympic debut together at Rio that summer, where they won team silver and were ninth individually.

    In 2017 Annie and McLain became World Cup champions. Annie was named US Equestrian’s international horse of the year, and McLain won equestrian of the year, after the pair had not a single fault in team competition in 2017. The following year they were fourth in the World Cup final, and had continued to rack up five-star wins and placings around the world since.

    “I knew from our beginning you were better than me and that it would take every bit of my ability to not let you down. Your wings carried all of us whose lives you have touched on an incredible journey that is the epitome of why we seek such lofty goals and pursue them with such passion,” said McLain.

    “You are the very definition of a queen. It was a privilege to have been the one to ride on your wings, to be your partner and to be part of your life.”

    McLain added a “special thank you” to those who had been involved in Annie’s career; Lee, Erica, Virginie, Kirstie, the Mathy family, the Harrison family, and all the “incredible team”.

    “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in Annie’s and my journey. Without each and every one of you the story we’ve written would not have been possible,” he said.

    “I’m forever grateful for your contributions and I have no doubt Annie has touched your life in a positive way as she has everyone’s. Happy retirement, my Queen.”

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