Tributes paid to five-star event horse with the ‘heart of a lion’

  • Top New Zealand eventer Caroline Powell has paid tribute to her late five-star campaigner On The Brash.

    “Rufus”, who jumped clear across country on every start at Badminton and Burghley, has been put down owing to a freak bout of laminitis.

    The 15-year-old gelding, owned by Sarah Tobey and Sue Smiley, would have been in contention for a place on the New Zealand side at the Tokyo Olympics.

    “He had the heart of a lion,” Caroline told H&H. “He was a very genuine horse, who always gave you 100%.”

    Caroline remembered him as a staying and “jumping machine”, adored by her team, his owners and connections. “When they are gone, they leave such a big hole,” she said.

    The Irish sport horse gelding, by the thoroughbred Mise Eire out of a Diamond Clover mare, was bred by Peter Brady and bought by Sarah as a foal.

    He spent his early years with Sarah and was sent to Northern Ireland when he was nearly four to be started by her stepfather, Eric Smiley.

    Rufus started his competitive career with Helen West, who took him up to intermediate, then joined Australian Olympian Sam Griffiths’ string.

    Sam took Rufus to advanced, with wins at national level and placings up to CCI3* (now CCI4*-L).

    Caroline took on the ride in 2017, finishing 11th at their first international as a partnership at Bramham CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) that summer.

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    Caroline credited her head groom at the time, Jip Adam, for the role she played in the horse’s success.

    “He was absolutely petrified of everything, and he was very lucky to have Jip – she absolutely adored him, spent a lot of time with him and that was a large piece of the jigsaw,” she said.

    Caroline and Rufus jumped clear across country on the horse’s Badminton debut in 2018, adding clear rounds over Burghley’s timber in 2018 and 2019 to their stellar record. They also achieved top 10 four-star finishes at Blair CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) in 2017, where they finished sixth, and Little Downham CCI4*-S in 2020, where they were ninth.

    They were listed on the New Zealand high performance futures squad and were targeting Tokyo team selection.

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