Ride of my life: Robert Oliver

  • Robert Oliver recalls King’s General best moments

    I had 12 seasons hunting on King’s General and there was nowhere he couldn’t go and nothing he wouldn’t jump – his speciality was iron gates. He was also the epitome of a show horse, the perfect pattern of a middleweight.

    He loved his showing, but he loved his hunting most of all. I hunted him with the Ledbury, the Beaufort, the Belvoir and the Berkeley – all the big ones. He was a proper 14st horse, a real master’s horse, like something out of an old Snaffles painting.

    It was on the hunting field with the Ledbury that I enjoyed my best ever ride on him.Nigel Wakeley was master and I was field mastering. We met at Corse Lawnand the General – we always called him that – trembled with excitement at the meet and the first covert, as usual. He never misbehaved, he just enjoyed it so much.

    We went out over Hill End and across Warners of Turley, where we jumped some tremendous fences, including a huge set of rails. He revelled in being up front and I knew that I could jump anything from anywhere. There were some tricky places where he turned on a sixpence and jumped out of a trot.

    We ran along the water meadows up to Chaseley, where the fox ran into the maize fields, then turned back the same way and killed at Corse Lawn. I don’t think there was a horse that could have gone as he did that day. It was a long day and probably the best hunt we ever had.

    He never wore boots or bandages and was always tough and sound. We didn’t turn him away in the summer; he would show, then go hunting. He had a wonderful temperament and was everyone’s favourite on the yard.

    It was the saddest day when we lost him. He was 18 and Giles Heine, a great friend, hunted him for the season. We met at the house, then moved off and the General pecked at a fence with a ditch on landing. He broke down completely and there was nothing we could do. I held him and he was put down in the field.

    Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (28 November) where Anky van Grunsven talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the Sydney Olympics on Bonfire.

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