There wasn’t a dry eye in the grandstand of the Longines International Arena at the 2021 Royal International Horse Show when the legend that is Allister Hood and his phenomenal show horse Our Cashel Blue both retired from the show ring after lifting the Winston Churchill supreme trophy for the second time.
Allister and Blue — who had qualified for the supreme after taking the coloured championship on the first day of the show — were the penultimate combination to perform and as expected Allister put on a sparkling display with the lightweight cob to score a perfect total of 30/30 from the three selected judges, Jennifer Williams, Frank Gunnell and Felicity Townley.
Allister scored his ninth Winston Churchill supreme victory the way he won the eight before, with an exhibition full of class, charisma and showmanship.
Just as Allister and Blue set off for their individual show the heavens opened, but neither were deterred.
Blue’s ground covering trot down past the grandstand, the impeccable transitions, flawless rein back and two stunning gallops couldn’t be faulted.
Allister garnered the loudest applause from the crowd, too, and at the end of his presentation, the showman removed his hat and praised his trusty partner.
Only Robert Walker and Nick Brookes’ hack champion, Parkgate Visit Royal William, followed and while their immaculate display was also a lesson in how to ride a supreme, they only tallied a total of 25, pushing them into reserve.
After their victory lap, Allister returned to the middle of the ring and commentator Gareth Jenkins announced that this was to be Blue’s swansong.
The beautiful blue and white gelding, formerly owned by the late Caroline Tyrrell who sadly passed away last year, had his saddle removed and was led from the ring in front of the roaring crowd.
Then, it was Allister’s time for a final foray:
“I don’t typically like to say very much, but I would just like to say thank you,” said Allister to the spectators. “I’ve been so lucky to have amazing horses and owners over the years, and of course, support from my family.”
Show director Lizzie Bunn presented Allister with an engraved crystal and then he removed his coat before leaving the international arena, hand in hand with his wife Anne, for the very last time, through a guard of honour made up of fellow competitors and friends. The end of an era was confirmed.
“Blue has been the most incredible horse,” said Allister. “We had difficulty when we first bought him and it took us a while to get the key to him. But ever since we found it he’s been unreal.”
“He loves Hickstead; the atmosphere and space of the main ring. It’s a marvellous feeling to be able to trust a horse so much that you can ride where you like at whatever pace you like. His ears are always forward and I know he’ll always have my back.
“We felt that if we were going to retire, we should do it while we’re both at the top of our game. And this was the most fitting occasion.
“I wish dear Caroline would have lived another year as she would have loved every second of this.”
Third place went to hunter champion Temple Ogue and Jayne Ross, who scored 24, followed by top riding horse Buriana Lark Rise and Hannah Horton with 23. Cob champions Red Butler and Sarah Walker achieved 22 and leading Arab Rafeekah and Kimberely Bates tallied 20.
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