The owner and rider of a horse who went from top-level working hunter classes to top-level eventing, showjumping along the way, have paid tribute to his character and talent.
Laura Collett’s Badminton and Burghley ride Noble Bestman has been put down aged 20, following a happy retirement at the home of his part-owner Philip Walker.
Laura told H&H she first rode the Irish gelding, who achieved success in working hunter classes including at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International, for Kelly Ward. She took him through the levels in eventing, from BE100 level to jumping clear across country at Badminton and Burghley.
“He was an amazing jumper with the heart of a lion; that’s what took him all the way,” she said.
“When he first came, he was fat from being a working hunter, and he wasn’t your normal event type, I think Philip wondered what on earth I was on about! But he was such a fun horse to ride, he loved his job, and he had the will to do anything.”
Laura said her proudest moments with the horse were his clear at Burghley in 2011, and also going clear inside the time in the under-25 championships at Bramham 2012, when a rare pole down showjumping dropped them from first to second place.
“He never had a fence down and it was unlucky he didn’t have the chance to win a big one but every time I rode him, he was so honest and fun,” she said. “I trusted him, and he always came out and tried his hardest.”
Laura described “Steve” as a real character, who would let himself out of his stable and “take himself to the feed room”.
“He was really cheeky and loveable in every sense, which is why he was always a yard favourite,” she said.
Steve’s last event with Laura was Boekelo 2013, when he fractured a pastern on the cross-country and had to undergo surgery.
He recovered to be able to event at lower levels with Mr Walker’s daughter Grace, and was being hacked out by Mrs Walker until about a year ago.
Mr Walker told H&H “super Steve” was “a true great”.
“He wasn’t the most athletic animal; you wouldn’t have bought him on his conformation or the way he moved but he had the attitude of ‘I can do anything if I try hard enough’, which is why he achieved what he did.
“When Laura and I went to buy him, I didn’t see what she saw in him; he was a bit hairy and didn’t move that well and jumped just enough; but she did a very good job with him.”
Mr Walker remembered Steve’s jumping in the Hickstead eventers’ challenge with Trevor Breen, while Laura was injured.
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“There was nothing that horse couldn’t do, he was so versatile,” he said. “Not many could do five-star eventing, HOYS workers and showjumping. He wasn’t flashy; he was workmanlike, but incredibly talented, and a delight to have around.”
Mr Walker said he was pleased the horse had seven more years after his injury, thanks to the surgery, to “do what he loved”, but that eventually, “it was a case of too many birthdays”, and he was put down on Sunday (25 October).
“He was an amazing horse,” he said. “We’re all very sad.”
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