Rider pays tribute to silver medal-winning horse lost to colic

Paralympian Felicity Coulthard’s 2008 freestyle silver-medal winning partner Roffelaar has been put down at the age of 21 due to colic.

The striking gelding also secured a bronze medal in the kur at the 2007 world championships and went on to a second Paralympic team slot at London 2012, loaned to a South African rider.

Grade II rider Felicity, who has cerebral palsy, purchased “Roff” in October 2006 while on a buying trip to Holland.

“My family and my trainer at the time, Adam Murdin, went and met with Frank De Kok at his stables. We’d looked at several horses before seeing Roff and he was just what I was looking for in a grade II horse — he had enough expression in his movements without me not being able to ride him through his gaits,” Felicity recalled.

She said the bay proved to be a “kind soul who always looked after me”, although he “could be cheeky”.

“He was a softie but he had a spark about him,” Felicity said. “He always loved to work whether in the arena or out on a hack. He came alive at competitions and would show off when he had an audience — he always loved having his photo taken and would pose when he saw a phone.”

While Felicity’s stand-out memory is her success at the Beijing Paralympics, where the partnership scored 71.06% to take silver, she said Roff’s character also stood out day-to-day.

Roff at home with Felicity.

“Hong Kong was made extra special by going into the medal ceremony and having it presented by Prince Edward,” she said. “However, I have a fun memory where lately when we went on a hack he would always head through the trees and try to get me with the branches. It was like a joke to him and as if he was laughing at me.”

After returning from loan after London 2012 — which Felicity had chosen not to contest in order to focus on family commitments — Roff spent time in Gloucestershire before moving down to live near his rider permanently in Lancashire.

Despite suffering some injuries, Roff was still ridden in semi-retirement and ventured out competing last year after an eight-year hiatus.

“When I got him back he suffered with a suspensory ligament injury in both front legs and had coffin joints problems as well. However after six months of rest and gentle exercise, eventually he was back fighting fit,” Felicity said.

“I rode him three or four times a week on veterinary advice and last year we went to Myerscough college and competed in the NDG novice test and came 4th out of 11, which showed me that he still enjoyed competing.

“After coming back after a operation to realign my ankle and stretching my tendon last year, we were getting ready to go out competing regularly this year.”

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She added that Roff had been thriving before the sudden colic.

“He was 21 years old but acted like a five-year-old most of the time. Everyone who saw and treated him always said that they had never seen a 21-year-old in such good condition as he was,” she said.

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