British rider’s ‘heartbreaking’ but ‘realistic’ decision to sell top horse: ‘I would love to see him go to Paris’

  • Mollie Summerland has made the “hard” yet “sensible” decision to put her 2021 Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials five-star winner Charly Van Ter Heiden on the market.

    Speaking on Luhmühlen’s chat show, during the 2023 event, Mollie said that “as much as it will break my heart”, the difficult decision has both their future interests front and centre.

    Mollie explained that her financial position, renting stables at a base she loves, and knowing the level Charly is happiest at, and that he could be a serious contender for Paris 2024, are the factors behind the decision.

    Mollie, who was competing in the CCI4*-S Meßmer Trophy at Luhmühlen with the 14-year-old Hannoverian gelding by Contendros Bube, said she will owe everything in her career to Charly.

    “I think most event riders can relate at some point in their career of being in a position where they maybe own a horse themselves, and I do own Charly. So it’s probably, as everyone keeps telling me, the sensible decision to think about putting him on the market,” she said.

    “I would love to see him go to Paris with somebody. I think he really is an Olympic horse. He deserves a chance to go on the world’s biggest stage and I would love to see him go to a rider and have that opportunity. But equally he would make a fantastic junior/young rider horse and go and win medals at that level as well.

    “What is there left for him to win really with me, that he hasn’t already won? He owes me nothing. There’s horses for courses and I don’t really feel that the Badminton and the Burghleys are what he enjoys, but there’s so much more that you can go out there and do and he’s just been an exceptional horse.”

    Mollie and Charly have risen through the ranks together. He is the horse with whom Mollie scored her first international win, topping the CIC2* (now CCI3*-S) at Nunney in 2017, when Mollie was 18, and the following year the pair were ninth individually at the young rider Europeans.

    In 2019, they scored a major milestone result by finishing third in the Grantham Cup at Belton and winning the Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the highest-placed British rider who has not been part of a senior championship team. Their record is a sea of top finishes at four-star, including winning Barbury in 2022, and headed by that career-defining five-star victory at Lumühlen in 2021.

    “I just have to be realistic, try to be grown up and make a sensible decision, as much as it’s going to absolutely break my heart,” said Mollie.

    “I don’t think there’s many event riders who could say that at some point during their career they haven’t had to make that difficult decision and I think it’s just the right time.

    “We had this opportunity [to sell him] almost before the Tokyo Olympics, and I couldn’t go through with it. I don’t regret that for one second, because we came here to Luhmühlen – he’s done so much for me and I’ve learned so much with him.

    “But you can’t always hang on to them for ever. Maybe later down the line, when I’ve got myself a bit more set up, I wouldn’t have to make this difficult decision. I would just love to see him go somewhere lovely and I’d love to see him go to Paris, I think he deserves that opportunity.”

    She added: “The words that I used in my interview when I won [Luhmühlen] were, ‘this horse has changed my life’. And he really has.

    “Hopefully I have a long career in this sport – everything I ever go on to achieve will be thanks to Charly and how he set me up. I have a lot to thank him for.”

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