‘Show off up there, big man’: Top rider’s tribute to his world-beating superstar

  • The horse with whom Lee Pearson “took on the world” has died at the age of 23.

    Multiple medal-winning para dressage rider Lee has paid tribute to Blue Circle Boy, a “very special dancing partner”, who died on a sunny day at Lee’s parents’ house yesterday (19 September).

    Lee said he first heard about “Gus” 19 years ago. Having been bottle fed from a week old, the dun colt had become an “overly cheeky stallion”.

    “I advised he was gelded due to unknown breeding,” said Lee. “A few months later we tried lunging him with no success as he just dragged us around a boggy field.

    “Day two I asked [his owner] Ange to push me up the side of him as I might be safer on top, with breaths held and whilst mounted I suggested I rode him with Ange attached the three miles to my parents as the land was drier.

    “Gus wasn’t the bravest on the road and somehow we all survived considering we passed a mare in season and a fire engine down a narrow lane!”

    Lee said both he and four-year-old Gus “knew nothing about dressage” when they started.

    “We went on and took on the world within para dressage and he also carried me to become the first British dressage rider with a disability to become a national champion,” said Lee.

    The combination won three gold medals at the Athens Paralympics; in the team, individual and freestyle events, and repeated the feat with triple gold at the 2002 European Championships in Anadia, Portugal.

    At the 2005 European Championships, they won another team gold, plus individual and freestyle silver.

    Later in life, Gus also trained with a vaulting team, “proving his trainability and love of human attention”.

    “I think and he definitely thought he was the most beautiful horse on the planet and he not only put myself as a dressage rider on the map, I and others think he put para dressage on the map also,” said Lee.

    “I’ll always remember arriving at my first able-bodied competition with people starring at me with my disability as if I was going to serve them coffee and biscuits in the cafe and perhaps thought I’d dressed up in riding gear to make myself feel part of a competition!

    “Then… the eye full of golden muscle power that was Gus came snorting backwards out of his trailer, patronising looks from car park competitors turn to looks of concern as I was pushed up the side of him until on top, he piaffed and passaged his way to the warm-up arena, whilst I tried to convince him not to show off too much as we didn’t want to be banned!”

    Lee said Gus was “not the easiest of horses” and that although he taught riders including Clare Balding and Alex Reid to “experience advanced movements”, he also nearly put Mary King off dressage for life”.

    “But that was part of his charm,” added Lee.

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    “I know he’ll have gone through the gates of horsey heaven like a massive golden double-decker bus-sized plonker that he was, making a massive impact. Cocking his leg like a dog for a scratch of his inner thigh if he thinks it will get him any extra attention!

    “RIP Gus, I’m forever indebted to you, Show off up there big man and we’ll catch up again sometime x”

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