Perfect Pete,34, beats the odds to qualify for Pony Club regional championships

  • A 12.2hh gelding who has beaten the odds to return to work is heading to Pony Club regional championships this weekend at the age of 34.

    “Perfect Pete”, as he is known, and Mathilda Kirkman will be representing the East Sussex branch at the grassroots regional dressage championships, at Horseheath racecourse on 28 August.

    Mathilda’s mother Amanda told H&H such an achievement had not looked possible in February this year, when Pete suddenly went very lame.

    “The physio said we’d never ride him again,” she said. “We’d been out hacking and suddenly he was on three legs, so we hobbled him home and thought that was the end.

    “But the vet said he actually needed to be kept moving. It was arthritis so we box-rested him, and did all the hot pads, put him on linseed, turmeric and glucosamine, and he came sound.

    “The vet said he was looking great so we went slowly, slowly, and he hasn’t been at all lame since.”

    Amanda said Mathilda’s ambition had been to compete again at Hickstead; at a tetrathlon there two years ago, Pete had refused to jump owing to, it was found, issues with his teeth.

    The family thought the diagnosis, and Pete’s new easier workload, had made this dream impossible.

    “Then, in March, I saw there was an area dressage competition at Hickstead. Our Pony Club dressage lady said ‘Are you sure?’ because they’d never done a dressage competition before, but we thought it would be a good experience, and Mattie would get to ride at Hickstead.

    “They only went and came fourth, and qualified for the championship, and Mattie was absolutely ecstatic.

    “Pete was an absolute superstar, and even the judge said ‘He certainly is perfect’.”

    Amanda said Pete is a local legend, having taught countless local children to ride, including his owners the Marshalls’ children Charlie and Izzy, now point-to-point jockeys, and eventer Alfie.

    “He’s a bit of a legend, with a huge personality, and is also very naughty!” Amanda said.

    “He can still be naughty; he ditched her in the field again a couple of months ago and galloped off. He can be quite horrendous, as well as a little superstar, who we all love to pieces.”

    Perfect Pete also came to top riders’ attention last year when a poem Mathilda wrote about him was read out by William Fox-Pitt as part of Pippa Funnell’s poetry competition.

    The poem started “My pony is called Perfect Pete, he really is quite naughty/He shakes his head and kicks his feet — and he’s nearly 40.”

    “That was lovely,” Amanda said.

    “Pete’s such a brilliant pony. Mathilda’s done everything with him, except dressage till now, but she’s nearly grown out of him now.

    “He bucks his way up the field when she rides another pony but there’s another little girl who rides him, and he’ll let us know when he’s had enough. No one can believe his age, but he must be up there with the oldest ever to qualify for the championships, and we’ve got no reason to believe he hasn’t got as much chance as any other pony there.

    “He’s got such a huge personality. I remember times he’s got her off and gone galloping across the field, me running behind and people say ‘There goes Perfect Pete’! He’s run rings round my daughter and taught her to ride, he’s an awesome boy.

    “I thought I should tell his story as it is one of hope and triumph.”

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