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‘Small but mighty’ British team horse bows out on a high

A “small but mighty” event horse who represented Britain at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) is to enjoy a happy hacking retirement, having ended his career with a win.

Black Tie, who finished fourth with Oliver Townend at Luhmühlen CCI4* (now CCI5*-L) and won Burnham Market CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) in 2014, the same year the combination represented Britain at WEG, is to live with friends of owner Karyn Shuter.

Karyn, who rode 18-year-old thoroughbred “Tonti” herself up to novice level, told H&H it was fantastic to see him go on to the top level with Oliver.

“He was a classic-looking thoroughbred with a lovely head and front and good technique but not a massive stride, so I always thought if he didn’t make it as an eventer he could be a working hunter,” she said.

“As much as I enjoyed riding him, he came at a time that my other horse, who was aiming for Burghley, got injured, then I got injured. That’s where Oliver is very generous with his time to help friends and offered to tick them over until I came back.

“I had a reassessment in my life and thought I didn’t want to start at the bottom again with one horse. He was always too careful for his size and scope, thus needed someone accurate – and hands up, I will never be as accurate as Oliver.

“It’s funny how things happen and the timing of things; as good as Tonti has been, it was lucky he ended up with Oliver to give him the best opportunity to go on to do what he did.”

Karyn described Tonti as a “funny little character, cheeky but very genuine”, who apparently used to “get rid of jockeys”.

“He was quite amusing because now and then in the jumping he would grip the bit, roar off down to the fence and then, at the last second go: ‘Actually, I’ll leave it to you’, and we’d laugh about it afterwards.

“I used to struggle watching him because obviously if you have ridden them, your last experience is how you remember them, so when walking the four-stars I used to think ‘He can’t do this; he’s too little and still a novice.”

Karyn said Tonti used to like to jump “too well”, such as clearing rather than going through brush, which was “ridiculous” at the top level, and meant he “took too much out of himself”, hence his need for top of the ground conditions and a rider who was always accurate.

“I adored him as a person, he always neighs when he sees people he knows, gallops up to the gate when you call him and loves every treat under the sun,” she added.

“He refuses to let any new work experience people put the headcollar on, but had a fantastic trainable brain and was just another reason why I love thoroughbreds.”

Karyn said owing to Tonti’s worth ethic and eagerness to please, they knew he would “try right to the end”, so they wanted him to finish his career on a high.

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“We never wanted to break him physically or his heart, as that’s what made him, him – his belief in himself,” she said.

“The plan was Osborne, which was a fantastic run, perfect ground for him, nice weather and the icing on the cake was him winning. Then we thought this year, he’s 18, still trying to buck everyone off but let’s leave it at that, on a high, the way you would always choose to end if you can.”

Oliver announced the retirement with “mixed emotions”.

“Tonti truly embodies being small but mighty, and his huge character has put a smile on all our faces from day one!” he said.

“We always agreed we wanted him to finish his competition career fit and healthy so he could enjoy a long and happy retirement, so it is lovely to end on a high with him winning his last event at Osborne last season.

“Tonti, thanks for all the wonderful times and happy retirement champ!”

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