The owner of a 28-year-old former Harrods coach horse has credited him for keeping her riding – and helping her through some tough times.
Clare O’Keefe has owned Apollo for 21 years; the Friesian came from the Netherlands as a four-year-old stallion to start his training as a carriage horse, and she looked after him and his partner Spartacus at the Harrods stables.
The pair pulled the store’s carriage through the streets of London as advertising, made deliveries, greeted tourists and visited Kensington Palace, where they met members of the royal family. They also carried important guests to Harrods in the carriage, including Father Christmas.
“I was lucky enough to be able to buy Apollo in 2002 when it was announced that the stables were closing, and all the horses were being sold,” Clare said.
“Apollo had a busy life in his younger years and worked very hard so now he’s older I take it easy with him and don’t do much, though he still likes to get out and about otherwise he gets bored. We still enjoy hacking out, riding around the farm where he’s kept and going to the occasional local show.
“When I had a bad riding accident on another horse, I almost gave up riding, but it was thanks to Apollo for rebuilding my confidence that I carried on. Lots of my friends and their children have also enjoyed riding him over the years.”
Apollo has now been chosen as the “ultimate golden oldie” by Spillers; the feed manufacturer invited anyone with senior horses or ponies to share their stories. Spillers then selected a top 10, with Apollo overall champion.
Clare said Apollo can be cheeky, and will slip his headcollar off when tied up, although “he doesn’t go very far”.
“He can also undo gates and at my previous yard he used to undo the field gate and let all the horses out!” she said, adding that Apollo eats Spillers senior feeds, and still enjoys sliced carrots, parsnips and his favourite brown bread.
“Apollo is such a special boy and means everything to me – I can’t imagine life without him,” she said. “We’ve been through so much together and he’s got me through some really difficult times. Thank you so much to Spillers for choosing Apollo as the champion golden oldie and a huge thank you for sending me some Spillers feed vouchers.”
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