Showjumping superstar bows out of glittering career with retirement party

  • The super consistent world-class showjumper Dougie Douglas, who helped to launch the careers of Britain’s Holly Smith and US rider Katie Dinan, has retired aged 17.

    “Doug’s” stellar career was celebrated with a send-off party, organised by Katie, and he is enjoying life in the field with another of Katie’s former stable-stars, Nougat Du Vallet (“NuNu”).

    “It is a privilege not only to have ridden a horse like him, but to be able to retire him happy, safe and sound,” Katie told H&H.

    “He is super well and it is wonderful to see him looking so happy.”

    Katie said it is a “bittersweet” feeling, adding that she will miss riding him and having him with her at shows but is happy to be giving him the retirement he deserves.

    “I decided to put all my emotions into organising a retirement party for him,” she said.

    “I’m just so grateful to Doug, I got him at the end of 2015, seven years ago, I was only 21 at the time.

    “I have grown up and had a lot of changes in my life, which is normal, graduating university, going back for a master’s, lots of horses have come in and out of my life. He was a constant, a true friend. I’m honoured to have ridden him. It makes me so happy to see him so happy, I get a little teary when I think about it.”

    Doug was a life-changing horse for Holly, who sourced him as a lightly backed four-year-old for €5,800 (£4,952) from Goresbridge Horse Sales. At the time, Holly had never competed above 1.20m. The pair progressed to become a stalwart of Britain’s Nations Cup teams and their CV as a partnership also boasted Hickstead Derby trial glory and grands prix wins.

    In 2015, Holly made the difficult decision to sell Doug to help her invest in more horsepower. He was sold at the Supreme Sale of Showjumpers at Goresbridge in November that year for €1.4m (£990,000) to Irish agent Barry O’Connor, and joined Katie’s stable in the US.

    Holly Smith and Dougie Douglas.

    Katie and Doug formed a strong bond and were consistently placed in top international classes in their seven years together.

    “He has always been very loved by the people riding him,” said Katie, describing him as a true professional with a “heart of gold”.

    “He was so reliable. You could take him anywhere, it didn’t matter if it was a big grass field or a small indoor ring. If you needed a horse to depend on, he was always the same.”

    Katie remembered her first trip to the UK with Dougie to compete in the FEI Nations Cup leg at the Royal International at Hickstead in 2016, where “everyone wanted to say ‘hi’ to him”.

    “It was the first time Holly had seen us together and she was very supportive,” she said, adding that she and Holly kept in touch over the years.

    Katie and Doug helped the US side to fourth place, jumping clear in the second round, and Katie also finished seventh in the grand prix with NuNu.

    She also cites runner-up spots at the CSI4* Valence grand prix and the World Cup qualifier at Washington in 2018 as among her treasured memories with Doug.

    The Covid-enforced competition gap in 2020, which they spent being “just a girl and her horse” riding around the trails and jumping cross-country fences in North Salem, is also a fond memory.

    “He wasn’t always top three on the podium, but he would come home most weeks with a placing,” she said, adding he jumped around 280 international classes in his career.

    “There are just some horses that really understand the sport, it is such a privilege to ride and compete with those horses, doing it together, helping each other out.

    “He was a real professional, he took his job very seriously. He did everything he was asked and always put in a little bit extra.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits. 

    You may like...