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‘He’ll stay with me till the day he dies’: five-star eventer bows out

Georgie Spence is retiring Wii Limbo from eventing. The 17-year-old, who belongs to Suzanne Doggett, Lucy Fleming, Sam Wilson and Georgie’s father Russell, completed six five-stars and was 12th at Burghley in 2015.

“My plan this year was to do Badminton and Burghley, then finish his career, but coronavirus has speeded that up,” Georgie told H&H.

“When Badminton was cancelled I thought he’d do Burghley then that’d be it. But with Burghley cancelled, we’ve been chatting about it – with the unpredictability of this season, I don’t want to keep galloping and jumping him, putting him under pressure, if we might not get many runs.

“He is 17 and owes me nothing, it’s just the right time. I will keep him and jump him, do some indoor cross-country events, and just let him be a horse. He’ll stay with me until the day he dies.”

Georgie bought “Woody”, a Dutch warmblood by Highline, as an unbacked three-year-old and he was the first horse she produced from this stage to the top level.

She explained: “I was speaking to Laura Collett at Olympia and said I was looking for a young horse. She had just bought a couple from a lady in Wigan, so I went up to look. I watched him loose jump and gallop flat out and bought him and two others. I was 18 and it was pure luck.”

It took over a year for Georgie to break Woody in.

“He was the naughtiest little devil and every time he had a few days off, it was like rebacking a young horse,” she said. “Even after his most recent holiday, I had to be put on the lead rein the first couple of times I rode him. He’d never want you to fall off, he was just cheeky, but sometimes the moves he gave you ended up with you landing on your backside!”

Although Georgie was experienced at the top level with other horses, her first five-star with Woody at Burghley in 2014 was the first time she achieved a double clear at that level, which she said was “quite a moment”.

The pair’s 12th place at Burghley in 2015 was another highlight.

Woody sat out the 2016 season with a mystery lameness in front which was never fully diagnosed, but after 18 months off, he returned to competition at the top level. In all, he completed Badminton twice, with his best result being 21st in 2018, and Burghley four times, finishing in the top 25 every time.

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Reflecting on Woody’s impact on her career, Georgie said: “He was a horse who could produce a very smart test – although he could be naughty and spook – and he always gave his all at Burghley, which was his favourite event. He was in the top 10 after dressage one year. I had always had a reputation for being halfway down after dressage and jumping a double clear, so he developed me as a name who could ride a dressage test.

“The first horse you produce from nothing all the way to the top is a mental highlight – it shows you can pick them, produce them and have the luck along the way to get them there.”

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