Much-loved showing ‘saint’ put down aged 25

  • A show pony who took a nine-year-old girl to the 14.2hh Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) final has been put down aged 25.

    Groveside Bellboy appeared at both HOYS and the Royal International Horse Show for four years running with Caitlin Galbraith in the saddle, competing in 14.2hh show pony and intermediate show riding type classes.

    Caitlin’s godmother Fiona Wallace bought “Billy” as a nine-year-old.

    “He’d been bought by Lynn Robertson for her daughter and went to Julie Templeton’s,” she told H&H. “Caitlin and I were in Scotland at the time and she was really tall – but Julie said: ‘I’ve got the perfect pony for her.”

    At the age of nine, Caitlin started competing Billy in 14.2hh classes, while she was still young enough to be eligible for first-ridden ponies.

    “That’s the sort of pony he was, he did it for her,” Fiona said.

    “He was the pony of a lifetime; if you could create his mould, you’d be very rich!”

    After four years at the top level, Billy dropped down to more local competitions, as “he just loved being in the ring”.

    “He was a monkey outside it though!” Fiona said. “He didn’t like hacking out at all – several people fell off him out hacking – and he didn’t like schooling either.

    “When he didn’t want to do something, he would just dig his heels in but the ring was his happy place. When he went in the ring, he put his happy face on and went in to do his job.

    “We think she must have been the youngest competitor to qualify for the HOYS intermediates and 14.2hh, and that was testament to him. He was always there or thereabouts; a nine- or 10-year-old wasn’t going to win against all the others being so much older, but the fact they got there at all was such an achievement.”

    Fiona said Caitlin loved Billy so much that when he retired, her father bought him so he could spend his last years at Caitlin’s family’s riding school and equestrian centre in Scotland.

    On Tuesday (27 August) Billy suffered a bout of colic and had to be put down.

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    “The vet said he looked peaceful, and his coat looked as if he could have gone back in the show ring,” Fiona said.

    “He was such a gentleman and a delight to deal with; everyone who’s commented on Caitlin’s Facebook post about him has said he was a saint, and actually, he really was; you don’t get many like him.”

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