“Everyone cheered him when he came off the lorry – he jumped off the ramp like a raging bull!” said Mark Beever, who has been Nick Skelton’s groom for the past 31 years and has looked after Big Star, or Henry as he is known at home, since the stallion arrived on the yard as a five-year-old.
The large entourage who welcomed Big Star home included Nick’s family, friends and the extended Skelton team, and the attention being lavished on the 13-year-old stallion has not stopped since, with social media buzzing with pictures of the stallion – and his rider, of course.
There were balloons on the gate to welcome Big Star back from Rio — but not in his stable.
“He’s a bit sharp like that — he wouldn’t be too impressed if we decorated his stable,” said Nick.
“He’s very placid but anything out of his normal routine and he gets a bit highly strung.”
But despite his new status as an A-list equine, Big Star is now back in his daily routine of spa treatments, grazing and being generally pampered by his devoted groom Mark.
“He’s so easy to handle, very good to do anything with – he doesn’t think he’s a stallion,” said Mark.
“I hand-graze him for two hours every day and he goes up to the spa at Dan’s racing yard every day. He’s had his photograph taken with all the racing lads because they all backed him. Apparently he was 16-1 so they’ve won a lot of money!”
But the Olympic gold medal-winner is not without his quirks.
“He cons you a little bit sometimes – when you take him into the tacking up area and start to put his bridle on, without fail he’ll start yawning,” said Mark. “He just wants you to think he’s tired!”
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But it’s not all rock star treatment for Big Star, he waits his turn for his dinner like everyone else.
“A lot of people say he must get fed first but no, we go along the line and he’ll wait patiently until whenever it’s his turn, he’s brilliant,” says Mark.
Read the full interview with Nick Skelton’s groom Mark Beever in the 15 September issue of Horse & Hound.