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‘He made my dreams come true’: farewell to former HOYS supreme

The prolific working hunter Zin Zan has died from colic aged 26.

Justine Armstrong-Small’s bay gelding — who was also a multi-garlanded lightweight hunter — was crowned overall supreme horse at the 2003 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

He won the working hunter final at HOYS twice and was also a winner at Hickstead on two separate occasions, standing reserve champion on both apperances.

Zin Zan, who was by Master Imp out of a Highland King mare, was bred in Ireland by Richie Bolger and was entered for Gorsebridge sales. He was spotted in a car park before the sale by David Tatlow who promptly brought him.

“We came to buy him through Mary Broome, who I was having lessons with at the time,” said Justine. “Mary mentioned her sister, Liz Edgar, had brought Zin Zan to showjump but he was proving to be quite inexperienced. The Edgars wanted him to go and do some workers for a bit and the plan was for them to buy him back in a couple of years.”

He was broken by Ben Maher who was resident stable jockey at the time.

“When I tried him he could only walk and canter,” said Justine. “I didn’t jump him under saddle but we watched him loose jump and we bought him.

“He was a great sit on and we worked hard getting his trot back. He could go sideways twice as fast as he went forwards and he would hook himself on the fence in the arena and refuse to turn left.

“The first show I took him to was at Four Winds; he bucked me off over a cross-pole in the collecting ring. I thought he was possibly too sharp for a worker and did some flat classes to get him used to the atmosphere.”

In his five-year-old season, Zin Zan qualified for the lightweight hunter final at HOYS on his second attempt. He finished third at the final on his Wembley debut.

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“Once I’d mastered the brakes and steering he went on to be a complete superstar,” said Justine. “He jumped three clear rounds at HOYS, winning the horse working hunter of the year title in both 2003 and 2004. He was also second in the lightweights in 2003 and went on to be supreme. He made my dreams come true.

“He was renowned for being either angelic or very, very sharp. He would only jump the ditch at the Royal International if it was going towards the lorry park; if it was the other way he would rear and refuse to go over it.

“I eventually gave him to my ex-groom, Stuart Murray, to enjoy his retirement in Shropshire at the Walcott stables, where he was treated like a king.”

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