Olympic gold medallist retires: ‘A horse like that comes round only once in a lifetime’

  • Qing Du Briot IFCE, who has been a stalwart of French championship teams with event rider Lt Col Thibaut Vallette, will be officially retired later this month, aged 18.

    The horse was bought by the federation body Institut Français du Chevalier et de l’Equitation at the end of his six-year-old year and Thibaut, who is an officer in the Cadre Noir at Saumur, started riding him a year later.

    “I didn’t have any idea how good he’d be — he was already eight and not the finished job by any stretch, but he was supple, kind, jumped brilliantly and wanted to do it,” said Thibaut in an interview with H&H in 2017.

    “Actually he could be awkward to ride as you needed to kick him along. The moment you stopped kicking, he’d stop! He’s still terribly lazy, like a pony. At home you have to beg him to work. But that’s also what makes him so good — he’s not an idiot or hot, he’s intelligent and understands really quickly.”

    The elegant light bay Selle Français Qing Du Briot IFCE, by Eolien II, first sprang to prominence at the 2015 European Championships at Blair Castle Horse Trials, where the pair took the individual bronze and led the French to team bronze.

    They were members of the French team at every championship from then until 2019 and never finished outside the top 13 individually.

    They landed 13th at the 2016 Olympics, helping the team to gold, and were 10th individually at the 2017 European Championships in Strzegom, Poland. In 2018 they were sixth individually and team bronze medallists at the World Championships in Tryon, USA, and in 2019 they claimed fifth individually at the Europeans in Luhmühlen, Germany.

    Although the pair’s focus was always on team duties, they did travel to their only five-star, Badminton Horse Trials, in 2017, where they finished 27th after 20 jumping penalties across country.

    Commenting on their relationship, Thibaut said: “He’s my little pet. He’s close to all humans, but he’s particularly jealous of me if I’m doing another horse. We know each other by heart. I think a horse like that comes round only once in a lifetime.”

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