William Fox-Pitt pays tribute to Burghley winner who died last week: ‘An old-fashioned eventer who rolled his sleeves up and got on with it’

  • William Fox-Pitt has paid tribute to double five-star winner Parklane Hawk, who died last week aged 22.

    “Catherine Witt and I bought him from New Zealand when he was eight through Carolyn Jolley,” William told H&H. “I’ve bought a lot of horses from Australia and New Zealand from videos, but we did fly out and try him.

    “We totally fell in love with Parker’s type – he was a great big galloping machine and that’s what he turned out to be, the perfect Badminton or Burghley horse. He was one that was going to gallop all day.

    “He probably wasn’t the ideal modern-day, short-format perfectionist – he might have a showjump down and wasn’t very good at twisting and turning, but he was a classic old-fashioned event horse and all about the long format. Not many horses like him are produced any more; it’s not what people are riding.”

    Parklane Hawk was William’s first reserve horse for the 2012 London Olympics, waiting at the first horse inspection in case anything happened to his ride Lionheart, but “very sadly” never had a team chance as William had such a strong string at the time.

    He also missed out on a Badminton Horse Trials win when he had a heart fibrillation and fell near the end of the course in 2014 – he was on track to make the time and would have gone into the showjumping comfortably in the lead.

    “There are ifs and buts and maybes and of course he would have won the trio if that had come off,” said William, referring to the three Rolex Grand Slam events of Badminton, Burghley Horse Trials (which Parker won in 2011) and Kentucky Three-Day Event (which he won in 2012).

    Parker was also second at Burghley twice, with eight faults in the showjumping each time and William said this phase “could be his Achilles’ heel”.

    As a character, William said Parklane Hawk was a “a real no-nonsense horse”.

    “He wasn’t the most amazing mover or jumper, but he was a real blood athletic doer. He’d roll his sleeves up and get on with it and never made any fuss.

    “He was quite assertive and very together and composed. He wasn’t a showman or a ‘look at me’ prince – he was far removed from the likes of Tamarillo and didn’t have Chilli Morning’s confidence. He was one of a pack and didn’t ever say, ‘What about me?’ or demand attention. Whether it was dressage or jumping or cross-country, he’d just say ‘let’s get on and go’.

    “It took us a few events to get our steering and we had some run-outs at the beginning while he was checking me out, but once he knew what he had to do, he was up for it. He was just such a worker, a real strong trier.”

    After he stopped competing in 2016, Parker had a “lovely retirement” with his owner Catherine Witt, where William says he was “best mates” with fellow five-star winner Seacookie, who is now 23 years old.

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