Four-star event horses defying age and still competing at 18 years of age or more
Most event horses’ careers start to wind down when they reach about 16-years-old. Eventing is a tough sport and years at the top levels take their toll on our mounts. But there are the rare horses who withstand the test of time and have gone on competing at four-stars into their twenties. You have to give the riders, owners and support team behind these equine athletes credit – it is not easy keeping a horse happily competing into its senior years. Let’s take a moment to be amazed over some of the veteran event horses in North America that are still tearing it up at the top levels… Interestingly, all of these horses are Thoroughbreds with the exception of one Irish Sport Horse cross.
Madison Park, 19-year-young Thoroughbred, ridden by Kyle Carter (CAN): This pair has represented Canada at three major games and earned seven CCI4* completions in their career so far. They were members of the 2007 Pan Ams silver medal team in Rio, where they finished 5th individually. In 2008 they breezed around the Beijing Olympics to finish 35th individually. Plus, they were on the legendary silver medal winning team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. In 2011, Madison Park slipped the tendon off of his hock on cross-country at the Blenheim CCIO3*, which for many horses would’ve been a career-ending injury. But thanks to Kyle’s incredible patience and horsemanship skills, he successfully rehabbed his four-star partner back to full form. Last year, they finished 34th at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* and this spring, they cruised around the Advanced at Rocking Horse Winter II H.T. Fingers crossed, we will get to see this inspiring pair flying around Rolex or Badminton one more time.
Arthur, 18-year-young Irish Sport Horse cross gelding, ridden by Allison Springer (USA): Allison has produced Arthur from a youngster. Arthur made his one-star debut in 2005 and has now competed in an incredible 43 FEI events with Allison in the irons. They have accumulated numerous top finishes at major events in their career and have completed EIGHT CCI4* events. In 2012, they earned an immaculate 2nd place finish at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* then went on to finish 6th at the Burghley CCI4* that fall. Although Arthur can be an incredibly spooky and challenging horse, Allison has brought the best out in him on numerous occasions. This February, they competed at Wellington Eventing Showcase and finished in 19th place. We would love to see this pair dazzling in dressage at Rolex this April.
Irish Rhythm, 18-year-young Thoroughbred gelding, ridden by Rachel McDonough (CAN): Rachel and Irish Rhythm have climbed the Eventing ranks together. They started their international careers in 2009 and have gone on to compete at 20 FEI events. They represented Canada at the 2012 NAJYRC Young Riders CCI2*, helping their team to a bronze medal finish. In 2014, they blazed around the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* with a double clear cross-country to finish in 25th place. Last spring, they delivered an impressive 4th place finish at the competitive Bromont CCI3*. They have started 2017 off strong with an 8th place finish at the Pine Top CIC3*.
Sir Rockstar, 19-year-young Thoroughbred gelding, ridden by Libby Head (USA): This pair captured the hearts of Eventing fans around the world last year when they stormed around the Badminton CCI4* into a 31st place finish. Libby was the highest placed rider under 25-years-old at this prestigious event. This pair started their FEI careers together at the one-star level and they have now contested 25 FEI events together. They represented Area III at the 2010 NAJYRC Junior CCI1* where they finished 19th individually. In 2011, they represented Area III again on the Young Riders CCI2* team winning a team gold medal and finishing 5th individually. They placed 19th at their first four-star at the 2014 Rolex Kentucky CCI4* and hopefully this year they will crack into the top 10 at Rolex.
Rise Against, 18-year-young Thoroughbred gelding, ridden by Bunnie Sexton (USA): In 2011, this pair made their international debut and have since competed at 22 FEI events together. Bunnie contested her first ever four-star, riding Rise Against at the 2015 Rolex Kentucky CCI4* finishing in 24th place. They were also 39th at the 2016 Rolex Kentucky CCI4*. Two weekends ago, they finished in 10th place in the Advanced A division at Twin Rivers.
Anthony Patch, 18-year-young Thoroughbred gelding, ridden by Laine Ashker (USA): Laine has done a remarkable job producing Anthony Patch through the levels. He did his first one-star in 2005 and has now contested in 24 FEI competitions with Laine, earning many top ten finishes. In 2010, they finished 14th at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, which was their first attempt at this level. They have a total of five CCI4* completions on their record, including a 48th place finish at the 2015 Burghley CCI4*. Laine Ashker is a brilliant dressage rider and despite Anthony Patch’s ordinary movement, he has cracked into the 40s in dressage at numerous three and four-star events. Although Anthony Patch has not been out competing yet this year, he is entered in the CIC3* at the Carolina International next weekend. Keep your eye on this pair next weekend and hopefully more events this spring.
Good luck to these incredible pairs in 2017 and may their incredibly stories continue.