Two great New Zealand event horses retired

Two top New Zealand event horses have been retired – Avebury and Clifton Promise.

Avebury, one of the most successful event horses in history, was withdrawn from Badminton and retired from competition.

Ridden by Andrew Nicholson and owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow, 16-year-old Avebury – known at home as “Buddy”, a nickname given to him as a foal by Andrew’s daughters Rebecca and Melissa – is the only horse to have won Burghley CCI4* three times (2012-2014) and Barbury Castle CIC3* four times (2012-2015). During his career he has accumulated 2,113 British Eventing points.

Andrew Nicholson and Avebury

Rosemary said: “This is a day we were all dreading. He has served us so well and after his last gallop he wasn’t showing his normal exuberance and zest for life. Sadly old age has begun to catch up with him, and he deserves a well-earned rest. Avebury is a horse of a life time and owes us nothing. Sometimes in his younger years he could be a little bit naughty, but he has been a complete joy to own. He has won at every level and during his career he ran 71 times with Andrew and 11 with Wiggy. He won 27 times and was placed on numerous occasions.

“Mark and I would like to thank Andrew and Wiggy and all the staff at Westwood for looking after him so well over the past 10 years. Avebury will continue to live at Westwood – a home he knows and loves.”

Avebury’s only run in 2016 was at Great Witchingham in March and, fittingly, he won. Andrew said: “He’s part of the family, and will stay here with us. Wiggy will ride him, and no doubt my daughter Lily will put her name down for a go. He’s sound and well; he just doesn’t quite feel like he used to and, as he owes us nothing, we thought it better to stop now. “

He continued: “He’s got a cheeky side to him, but whenever you walk into the yard, he’s happy to see you. He loves his work and is very bubbly about everything. He’s still naughty to catch in the field – he gallops around squealing, but as soon as it rains, or he thinks something might be happening without him, he runs up and down the fence line yelling to be brought in. He has been an exceptional performer. He loves a big atmosphere and shows off in it, and has always been a brilliant jumper and galloper. He has always been a winner, and I have to thank him for some of the greatest days of my career.”


Jock Paget and Clifton Eventers’ owner Frances Stead have made the difficult decision to retire Clifton Promise – winner of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in 2013, who will be official retired at the event in May.

Paget’s partnership with the gelding began in 2007 and since then the pair have gone on to huge success internationally. As well as their Badminton victory, highlights of the partnership include winning the New Zealand Eventer of the Year title back to back in 2009 and 2010, finishing in seventh place at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky 2010, winning team bronze at the London Olympics 2012, silver at Aachen and finishing runner-up at Pau and Burghley.


Jock Paget & Clifton Promise winning Burghley 2013 by Lucy Hall
Jock Paget & Clifton Promise winning Burghley 2013 by Lucy Hall

Promise is now 18-years-old, and Paget says he has gone into the last two years wondering if that season would be the horse’s last. “I always said if I prepare him the same as I always have every year, then I will know when it’s time to retire him and now feels like the right time,” said Paget. “He’s done two competitions this season at Aldon and Burnham and he doesn’t feel the way he has in the past. It’s important we retire a day early rather than a day late. We are honoured to be able to officially retire him on the Sunday at Badminton. We would like to thank Hugh and his team for this privilege at an event that means so much to us.”

Promise will spend his retirement at Paget’s yard in Hungerford. “Promise is the ultimate gentlemen – he has changed my life. He will retire with me and I will take great pleasure in watching him in the paddock and riding him at home. It is a mark of a successful career to Frances, the team and I to be able to retire him happy and healthy.”

Sarah Carless reporter at large

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