Grand National winner Pineau De Re changed the lives of his connections when he blitzed to victory in the Aintree showpiece in 2014. Nine years on, the now 20-year-old gelding has gone on to change another life through the “size of his heart”.
His former trainer Richard Newland, who still co-owns the horse with John Provan, asked Lizzie Brunt if she would retrain “Pineau” for his eldest daughter to ride. Dr Newland’s daughter moved to London, so the horse ended up joining Lizzie full-time.
“He is the kindest horse with the biggest heart and will do anything I ask of him,” said Lizzie, who was working for Dr Newland when she was asked to start Pineau’s retraining.
“He’s so sure-footed, he has a fifth leg wherever you go – I think that’s why he won the National. I’ve never really ridden another horse as clever as he is. We did loads of gridwork to get him to slow down, to stop him going so high, and to help encourage him to tuck up his legs.
“Even now at 20, he still looks free, supple and active, and that’s what the dressage judges love about him.
“The size of his heart makes him so willing and honest, he doesn’t say no, he just gets on with it. It might be a little bit quicker than I’d like, but that doesn’t matter – I just have to hold on and let him do the job! That’s what he’s been like through the whole of his retraining.”
What Pineau gave Lizzie in return was the ultimate gift a horse can give.
“I used to event as my profession and I lost the love for it, because of the pressure. I had a yard full of horses and it was just too much,” she said.
“Then I started riding him and taking him out – it doesn’t matter about winning, does it? It’s just about having a good time. He just means so much to me, for bringing that enjoyment back, for taking the pressure off, and I’m now enjoying competing again as my hobby rather than my profession. I’m just so grateful to him for that.”
She added: “My main aim when I take Pineau out is just for him to enjoy it. He’s already a champion in his own right and has nothing to prove to anyone.”
Pineau was one of three finalists in The Jockey Club Retraining of Racehorses horse of the year award, which was won by Hannah Chisman’s First Fandango. William Grant’s 17-year-old “super athlete” Skipper Robin completed the trio.
The “calm and kind” gelding, formerly trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, has turned his talents to hunting, team chasing, hunt rides and relays, as well as showing, dressage, arena eventing and showjumping.
“He’s done 10 different disciplines and been successful in all of them. He’s just a super athlete,” said William, adding that he is a great ambassador for showing what “ordinary racehorses” can go on and achieve.
“You hope they will turn out to be sound and safe and sane, but he’s just a gorgeous, loveable character.
“I feel privileged to have owned him. To describe him in one word, he is magic.”
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