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‘It started with her’: farewell to top coloured mare

Florida, the distinctive skewbald mare who dominated coloured showing classes in the mid-2000s, has been put down at the age of 25.

Owned from a foal by Nicky Tomes, the daughter of Orlando hit a run of success when partnered by Ben Martin.

They stood champion at every show they contested at in 2003, with the exception of Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International, accumulating more than 10 victories that year.

In 2004 they stood coloured champions at HOYS, and Ben said the memory of “going down that centre line in the spotlight” would be one he has “for ever”.

“She was a great one to take out, she was like a machine in the ring. You didn’t have to tire her out or do any of that warm-up lark!” Ben said.

“I could take her to a show by myself and get on her to go and find what ring we were in, and that would be all the preparation she would need.

“At HOYS I remember her in the championship just staring at herself on the screen with everything else around her leaping about. I never had to worry about her letting me down or getting sharp.”

After her retirement from the show ring as a nine-year-old, Flo went on to compete in eventing with Nicky’s daughter and continued to be ridden until late in life as a nanny to youngsters.

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Ben, whose yard is “round the corner” from Nicky’s, said he had stopped by to “give her a pat” many times while teaching there and had been able to pop in one last time to say goodbye.

“We had an amazing time showing her, going to all the counties,” he said. “They are great owners and we made a lot of memories with the whole family.”

After Flo retired from the ring, Ben and Nicky forged a new partnership 11 years ago when she bought then-three-year-old Gio (Dimaggik), who is the first horse he has trained and competed in dressage to grand prix level.

“What I am doing today started with Flo,” he added.

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