Andrew Nicholson has withdrawn Avebury from Badminton and announced the stunning record-breaking horse has been retired from full competition.
Owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow, the 16-year-old “Buddy” has had an amazing career, and is the only horse to have won Burghley CCI4* three times (2012-2014) and Barbury Castle CIC3* four times (2012-2015).
“He’s sound and well,” Andrew said. “He just doesn’t quite feel like he used to and, as he owes us nothing, we thought it better to stop now.”
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 lifetime 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’s won at every level and during his career he ran 71 times with Andrew and 11 with Wiggy [Andrew’s wife, who competed him at Novice level]. 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.”
The grey son of Jumbo was bred by Andrew Nicholson out of a thoroughbred mare, Memento (registered racing name Bairn Free) who Andrew evented briefly before she developed a cataract in one eye.
Andrew broke in Avebury, and then sold him to go show jumping. He was successful in that discipline as a five-year-old, and then Wiggy bought him back and evented him in his six-year-old year, winning a Novice event at Gatcombe on him.
Before long, he was back in Andrew’s hands: “Rosemary Barlow wanted a new horse, so I said to her that I thought I knew of one. Wiggy went away for a few days, so I sneaked him up to the gallops to see what he could do. I was quite impressed, so I suggested Rosemary bought him for me to ride.”
In their first season together in 2007, Andrew and Avebury won the CCI* at Tattersalls and three Intermediate classes, as well as finishing second in the British Novice Championships at Gatcombe and fourth in the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers.
The following year, they won the CCI2* at Tattersalls, were fourth in the British Intermediate Championships at Gatcombe, fifth in their first CCI3* at Gatcombe and won an advanced class a Aston-le-Walls.
In 2009, they took the CCI3* at Saumur and were second in the CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim, as well as winning an Advanced at Powderham.
In 2011, they were 10th at Badminton and eighth at Burghley, and in 2012 they scored the first of their multiple victories in the CIC3* at Barbury Castle and at Burghley.
In 2015, the pair took their fourth Barbury Castle CIC3* win and were preparing for an attempt at a fourth consecutive Burghley when Andrew suffered the bad fall at Gatcombe from another horse; this broke his neck, finished his season – and threatened his career.
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 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.”
Andrew won the Wide Awake Trophy in 2012 as the breeder (and rider) of Avebury, the leading British-bred horse for the season. He was withdrawn from Badminton last year as well, having incurred a small injury in his build-up but had made a full recovery from that.
Avebury’s sassy style has captured hearts all around the world, including when he competed at Rolex Kentucky in 2014, as well as the many times he competed in the UK. He looked a dream across country, bold and fast, but was always a challenging ride for Andrew, who often used to say that he had to be on his toes with the horse and he had to work to keep him concentrating and focused. While he won Burghley three times, perhaps his favourite track was Barbury, and winning there four times in a row is a huge feat. It is his “local” track. When he won there again last year, Andrew was quoted as saying that Buddy definitely knew where he was. “He felt as if he really knew his way round and could have gone even faster.”
So, this leaves Andrew with just one horse for the Badminton Horse Trials, his trusty Nereo. We wish him all the best and also wish Buddy a long and happy retirement.