Medal-winning eventer retires with a win aged 20: ‘It’s impossible to believe he’s that old’

  • Karim Florent Laghouag won the indoor cross-country competition in Bordeaux on Friday evening (3 February) and announced the retirement of his 20-year-old campaigner, the former French team horse Punch De L’Esques.

    “He really showed us that it is impossible to believe that he is that old,” said Karim. “When we started thinking about retiring him last year, I rode him every day and thought there was no way he was already 19. He was still the usual Punch and now he has to stop while still being at the top of his game.”

    Eighteen pairs came forward to compete in the Devoucoux indoor derby at Jumping International de Bordeaux, run over 19 obstacles and 26 jumping efforts spread over the main arena and the warm-up ring.

    The competition was judged firstly on jumping penalties, and Karim and Punch De L’Esques were one of seven pairs to go clear. They finished a second faster than their nearest rivals, Karim’s fellow Frenchman Benjamin Masse riding Cupidon Du Cardonne.

    “Doing this course with him is so simple, Punch is in my head: I look left, he goes left, I squeeze my buttocks because I’m afraid of dropping a fence and he jumps a metre over it – it’s a beautiful story,” said Karim.

    Karim Florent Laghouag pilots Punch De L’Esques to a win in the indoor cross-country at Bordeaux in February 2023. Credit: R&B Presse / Adèle Renauldon

    During his long career Punch De L’Esques finished in the top 10 at five-star twice – he was seventh at Pau 2015 and 10th there in 2016 – and was part of the French team at two European Championships, at Malmö in 2013 (where he contributed to team bronze) and Luhmühlen in 2019.

    He also became a specialist in these indoor cross-country events, winning at Bordeaux in 2020 and 2017 as well as finishing second in 2019. He also won the similar competition in Geneva in 2017 and finished second there three times (including in December last year) and fourth once.

    “I have the feeling that the people here have made Punch their own. You see his portrait everywhere, on the course there is even a fence paying tribute to him – you don’t see that anywhere else,” said Karim.

    “And now we’re going to celebrate his farewell to competition without crying because there’s nothing sad here. He is retiring and will live many more beautiful days hacking with me, with my son and especially with my wife. He is going on holiday and we will see each other every day.”

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