Irish event rider Alan Nolan has announced he is retiring his horse of a lifetime from international competition.
Bronze Flight, who is owned by Carole Warren, has been ridden by Nolan, who is an amateur rider who has made it to top level competition, for the past ten years. Together the pair have competed at seven Four Star competitions; Pau (2014), Burghley (2015, 2016, 2017), Luhmuhlen (2016, 2017) and Badminton (2018), completing on six occasions with four clear rounds across country to their name at this level, as well as numerous other international events.
Bronze Flight will now enjoy eventing at lower levels as according to Nolan he is in no way ready to retire completely and would be devastated if he could never go to an event again. To mark his retirement from the international stage, a party was held in Bronze Flight’s honour where he made a special appearance.
Announcing the retirement, Nolan paid tribute to Precious calling him amazing. He told Eventing Worldwide: “He is a horse of a lifetime. The decision to retire him wasn’t easy in one sense because he is feeling so well. He is perfectly sound – he is the soundest horse I have ever known – but he is 19 and there isn’t anywhere else to go with him. He has done everything I have asked of him and more. I never expected to get to Four Star with him when I started riding him.
“Everybody is very sad he is retiring from international eventing but whilst the ultimate decision was down to myself and Carole, we took the decision with everybody. It’s the right decision and we always said we would do what was right for him – we have done that throughout his career. He’s always been our number one priority. He’s now going to have lots of fun competing at the lower levels and he will be out and about for another couple of years to come I hope.”
A photo taken at Burghley by Eventing Worldwide summed up the relationship Nolan has built up with the horse over the past ten years and he said: “In that moment I realised what Bronze Flight had done for me. He’s just incredibly special.”
The plan had been to retire Bronze Flight following their completion at Burghley last year, where they had their best Four Star result, but as Nolan told Eventing Worldwide “He felt so good it was decided we would run him at Badminton.”
This provided Nolan, and Carole, with the horse’s career highlight. He added: “It is the pinnacle of the sport, and for me as an amateur to be able to compete there on a horse that I have been riding for ten years was incredible. It was both hugely emotional and exciting; I got into the start box and I knew it was going to be my last cross country round on him. It was an amazing experience, but if anybody had seen me after cross country I was in floods of tears. It was a special moment and a dream come true, and he made that dream come true.”
As an amateur rider, Nolan was able to reach the highpoint of the sport with Bronze Flight whilst working full time. He said: Before Badminton I was trying to ride three days a week. With a full time job I can’t ride every day. It didn’t always work and we had one intermediate run (at Bicton) before we went to Badminton. I needed more but he knew what he was doing and I put my trust in him. We had an incredible partnership – we know each other inside out and it showed in that cross country round at Badminton. He galloped round in ground that wasn’t suitable for him and was prepared to dig deep and go for it. And that’s what you want in a horse and is what is inspirational about him. He’s such a trier. He gets into that start box and is on.”
Nolan paid tribute to his supporters for their help throughout Bronze Flight’s international career, particularly Carole, commenting: “Carole has been so supportive and instrumental in every decision we have made with Precious and of me as a rider. Badminton was her aim and she has now had a horse complete there.”
Nolan has a seven-year-old event horse, also owned by Carole, who is coming through the levels and whom he is very excited about for the future, saying: ‘He has a good enough brain to compete up the grades but who knows if he will make it to Four Star, we have to wait and see. He’s a lovely horse and we’re starting at the bottom of the grades again and working our way up. He’ll be going to Hartpury for the One Star later this year.”