‘He brought so much joy’: farewell to the horse that launched the careers of five-star riders

  • Tributes were paid to the horse that launched the careers of many five-star riders and which Olympic gold medalist Laura Collett rode to her first international victory.

    Walnut (“Wally”), owned by the Caldin family, died aged 33 on December 8 after a solid career teaching young riders and a happy retirement as nanny to young horses.

    “He was a total legend,” said Laura H&H. “I feel very honored to have ridden him.”

    She said she knew Wally from his days with Simon Lucey at the Pony Club. At the time, Laura was riding Noble Springbok and training with Simon’s mother, Mandy.

    “Mandy offered to ride him, which was a great honour. He did everything very easily, he knew his stuff. He came with two instructions: hold the rein straight and kick – as long as you do this, you were absent.

    The pair have twice won the CCI* (now CCI2*-S) Regional Novice Junior Championship title at Weston Park in 2004 and 2005, as well as two Pony Club Championship titles. Overall, they never finished outside the top three.

    “I did my first three-day event on him at Weston Park, which was the last time they did steeplechase, and it was great to have that kind of experience. I probably took it for granted the first two seasons because I had him and Fernhill Socks, which was also amazing, and then reality showed how hard it is to win! says Laura.

    She added that going back to Weston and defending their title was one of her fondest memories.

    “It was amazing and it was probably one of the biggest highlights I had on him,” she said.

    “It came with an instruction manual; the Luceys knew him well and he did exactly what he said on the box. Overall he was a real gentleman and as long as you were aware of his little quirks he was as easy as pie.

    Wally also began the careers of five-star riders Imogen Gloag and Nick Lucey, living out her days as the much-loved nanny to young horses in Nick’s yard.

    Nick said H&H Wally was one of those special horses that can be competitive in the Under 18s and just as happy to have fun at Pony Club camp.

    “He was really the kind of horse you could do anything with,” he said, adding that Wally “loved the day hunt too.”

    “He had a really good jump, you just had to kick it. He was a good horse to learn to ride.

    And Wally taught countless students how to ride, enjoying life as a schoolmaster until his late twenties, when he retired full-time as a nurse to young horses.

    In a tribute to Wally on his Facebook page, Nick said he had a “full life full of events, love and digestive cookies”.

    “He has an impressive number of 30 novice and former CCI* clear doubles. It reminds anyone looking for flashy big horses to hop around novices that an Irish 15.1 cob with feathers and an unknown breed beat everyone,” he said.

    “He was truly a legendary little horse, with a huge heart that brought so much joy to so many people.”

    The athlete said goodbye to his partner from the European Championships, who “would never give up”

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