Retiring my horse of a lifetime…..

Last month I made the hardest decision of my career so far when I retired my superstar horse RAYEF…. Having had him for 9 years and gone from BE100 to Badminton, I know him inside out! He just wasn’t loving eventing any more and I owe it to him to give him what he wants! He is fit and well in himself and I couldn’t bare the thought of anything happening to him if I carried on trying to make him event when he didn’t really want to any more!

RAYEF has been the horse of a lifetime for me, back in 2005 when I had to sell my legendary pony NOBLE SPRINGBOK, I remember Yogi Breisner telling me that if I sold SPRING, I could set my career up for life by buying 4 or 5 young horses, one of which would take me to Badminton…. he wasn’t wrong!! RAYEF was bought a few weeks after selling SPRING and in the middle of 2006 I was approached by Jason Houghton who wanted to buy him off me… I refused to sell him at first because I was convinced he was a 4* horse but when Jason explained that he would buy him but I would keep the ride, I wrote a contract and agreed to sell.

2006 was his first year eventing and he racked up 6 wins and was only out of the top 10 once!

2007 was when RAYEF stepped up to the plate becuase my Junior European Champion from 2006, FERNHILL SOX, had picked up an injury. RAYEF did me proud and after only one year of eventing he went to the Junior European Chamionships and won me Team and Individual Gold! He finsihed the year by winning Gatcombe CIC** and picking up 9th place in his first CIC***.

2008 RAYEF won an OIu21 and an Au25 before sadly picking up an injury at Bramham CCI***.

2009 he picked up 13th place at Saumur CCI*** and then headed to Young Rider European Championships where I had a massive point to prove… In 2008 there had been a mix up with qualifications for FERNHILL SOX and I got a phone call whilst at YR final training telling me I couldn’t go to the Europeans. In true RAYEF style he proved that point for me and won another Team and Individual Gold Medal!!!!

2010 was a write off because he had picked up another injury at the European Championships, but the plan was set in place to miss the whole year with the aim of producing him for his CCI**** debut at Badminton in 2011.

2011 was what you call a ‘Dream Year’…. RAYEF went to Badminton after one OI and one CIC*** run. Yogi had worked so hard with our dressage over the last year with Badminton in mind… I was 5th into the arena at my first Badminton and my boy did me proud, he produced the test of his life and scored 36.5…. this left us in the lead after day 1 and 3rd after both days of dressage! I couldn’t believe it!!! He then popped round the xc and made my first Badminton feel like a walk in the park! We had a really annoying rail in the showjumping but it was still good enough for 8th place…. Top 10 on my Badminton debut, the dream had come true! The highlight was getting to sit in the press conference after the xc day between the 2 legends of the sport, Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd… It was highly entertaining when Mark pointed out that he won his first Badminton before I was even born!!!!
The dream didn’t stop there because after finishing 3rd at Barbury CIC***, I got the phone call every rider dreams of “You have been selected to represent Team GB at the Senior European Championships.”….. Although it wasn’t the Senior debut I had planned for, it still meant that RAYEF had represented Team GB at Junior, Young Rider and Senior European Championships, winning 4 Gold Medals along the way!

2012 was mixed but he took me to another amazing venue at Aachen for CICO***, he led the dressage by 4 marks, beating the likes of La Biosthetique Sam and Opgun Louvo who went on to win Olympic individual Gold and Bronze a couple of months later! Unfortunately we had to take an unplanned long route on xc when my reins slipped which meant we picked up a few time pens and ended up 3rd. This was good enough for RAYEF to be selected as a first reserve for the London Olympic Games!

2013 he came out with a win in the OI at Lincoln but then failed to sparkle for the rest of the year.

What an absolute LEGEND this horse has been for me…. I owe it all to RAYEF….. I’m just so lucky to still be able to ride him and enjoy him!