Show jumper Ellen Whitaker can compete her top horse Locarno again after a peace deal over disputed ownership of 13 horses on her yard.

The news puts an end to a High Court claim filed against Ellen and her father/trainer Steven Whitaker by business associate Julian Jonathan Donn.

Under last month’s out-of-court settlement, Locarno has been sold to Steven Whitaker and Dawn Makin for a sum “significantly in excess” of the €1million (£692,000) reportedly paid by Mr Donn’s Amara Stud at the 2001 Paul Schockemöhle sale in Germany.

“I have enjoyed a long and friendly business relationship with Steven and have huge admiration for Ellen’s talent,” said Mr Donn, who will receive 200 straws of Locarno’s breeding semen over the next two years and “recovers” the other 12 horses.

On 17 March, Mr Donn filed a claim demanding damages of more than £1.5m and the return of 13 horses, including Locarno. A subsequent High Court order barred Ellen from competing the nine-year-old Holsteiner stallion.

Mr Donn’s solicitor, Howard Pinkerfield, said Steven Whitaker claimed to have an interest in Locarno and a right for Ellen to ride him until the 2008 Olympics.

“Julian Donn’s case was that such claims were unfounded and he owned Locarno and all the other horses outright,” said Mr Pinkerfield. “Mr Donn intends to resume the training of Lancelot, the competition horse, and Catman, the puissance horse. The mares and foals by Locarno will travel to Mr Donn’s farm in Lithuania.”

Mr Whitaker expressed his satisfaction with the resolution. “This will ensure Ellen can continue to jump her favourite horse, Locarno, and go on developing her career,” he said.

BSJA chief executive Jacky Wood and British Equestrian Federation (BEF) performance manager Will Connell said the settlement was “excellent news” for the sport.

British show jumping team manager Derek Ricketts agreed, saying the duo “jumped phenomenally well” in 2005.

  • This news stort was first published in Horse & Hound (6 July, ’06)