Gold medal-winning event horse to retire: ‘He’s very special — he taught me so much’

  • Neelix, the horse who kick-started Willa Newton’s eventing career and won three medals in under-21 competition, is being retired.

    The 18-year-old horse, who belongs to Willa’s father Joey and is known as “Chip”, will retire on the family’s farm, Newton’s Hall Place farm near Melton Mowbray and may continue to be ridden and hack out at home.

    He’d been so good last year and we thought as he is 18 now and has always been a bit fragile, we’d rather he go out happy and healthy on such a great season last year. We don’t want to push him and have something awful happen,Willa told H&H.

    The 27-year-old British rider added: “Neelix is a horse of lifetime; he has taught me so much and I owe him everything. He really did make me realise it was possible to have a career in eventing.

    “There aren’t many horses that can take you from Pony Club and juniors to four-star. We bought him as a junior horse to get me started, then he went two-star, then three-star, then he was meant to go to Badminton the year it was cancelled [2012]. In hindsight I should have taken him to Luhmühlen as his first four-star that year, but it was amazing to have a ride at Burghley on him.”

    Willa took a late fall in the arena at Burghley, but two years later she and Neelix achieved a four-star completion at Luhmühlen.

    He did have a run-out, but he was really good there and I had a great spin on him,” said Willa.

    Neelix, a son of Maltstriker, did his first two British Eventing competitions in 2005 with Paul Sims, before being competed by British-based Dutch rider Andrew Heffernan for two seasons. Willa and Neelix teamed up in 2007, finishing that season by finishing fifth in the junior CCI* at Weston Park.

    The following season the pair won an under-21 open intermediate at Belton in the spring and were members of the gold medal-winning team at the junior European Championships at Thirlestane, Scotland, in August, finishing sixth individually. The pair then represented Britain at three young rider European Championships, winning team gold and individual silver in 2011 at Blair Castle, Scotland. They were also sixth at the championships in Pardubice, in the Czech Republic, in 2010, where they competed as individuals.

    Willa named their young rider medals as the highlight of Neelix’s career, as well as their final two seasons in CIC3* competition. The pair finished third and second at Hartpury CIC3* in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, his last year of eventing, Neelix also finished sixth in the CIC3*s at Burgham and Bramham and 13th in the Event Rider Masters final at Blenheim, missing out on fourth place only due to activating a frangible pin.

    “Last year he felt so good and we had so much fun doing CIC3*s in his final two seasons — they were perfect competitions for him,” said Willa.

    Article continues below…

    You might also be interested in:

    Looking back, Willa added that Neelix has been an “absolute dream” to ride.

    “I love that horse so much — he’s quite sharp and cheeky and has definitely got something about him, but even after time off he was so easy and light and just wanted to work for you all the time. He’s very special.”

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

    You may like...