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Goodbye Walero

last updated on March 04, 2016 15:00

Goodbye Walero

Nicola McGivern’s Olympic partner, Active Walero, passed away last weekend at the age of 25. He was put to sleep following a short illness.

The attractive bay burst onto the British dressage scene in 2002 when he was bought by Fiona James at Active Equestrian Ltd as a ride for Nicola. The then 11-year-old who had been trained to Grand Prix in his homeland made an instant impression on Fiona, and thus, her extensive search for her ‘horse-of-a-lifetime’ had come to a halt.

Active Walero (Wanderer x Matcho AA) and his new partner, Nicola, quickly formed a bond, and it wasn’t long before they were selected to represent their country. Hickstead CDIO was an indicator of things to come as the attractive gelding, with a flair for piaffe and passage, took the honours in the Grand Prix Special. That same year, they were also reserve National Champions.

In 2003, their career really took off. Always working with great energy and in his typically uphill frame, the leggy gelding’s performances reaped the high marks. At Munich CDI that year they walked away with the Grand Prix Special on a score of 72.64%, and at Frys CDI, they enjoyed Grand Prix victory with 71.81%.

This exciting new combination became an obvious choice for selectors when it came to picking a team for the European Championships on home ground, at Hickstead. Ten years previously, Great Britain had come home from the Europeans in Lipica with a silver medal, but a quiet decade ensued – something which was soon to change. That scorching week in August at the historic Sussex venue, the competition was equally hot but Nicola and Walero showed their mettle. They delivered what they set out to, producing three plus-70% scores and helping Great Britain to team bronze.

The following year, they achieved numerous international successes including second place in the Norten-Hardenberg Grand Prix Special with an impressive 73.28% and a victory at Rotterdam CDI, again in the Special. This form resulted in their team selection for the Athens Olympic Games where Great Britain achieved a creditable seventh place.

Nicola and Walero competed at the highest level until 2009 when he started a new chapter in his life. He was retired from Grand Prix sport becoming a Young Rider schoolmaster, firstly for Susannah Coleridge-Smith and later, Bobby Hayler. With both, he was selected to compete at FEI Young Rider European Championships. The last time, in 2012, at the grand age of 21.

“He was definitely the horse of a lifetime; lots of people say that, but he was mine,” says Fiona. “He got me to the Europeans and Olympics as an owner with Nicola and then went on to give two more young riders such joy at European level.

“We tried to retire him but he wasn’t having any of it! Bobby started competing him but when the call up for the Euros came, it was a hard decision as we wanted to do what was right for him. He astounded us all though! He spent the whole championships bucking and squealing; he had to show off his party-piece, his passage, even though it wasn’t in the tests!

“He was an absolute gentleman. If he’d have been human, he’d have always opened doors for you and nothing was ever too much trouble. He had a very firm opinion of what was right and wrong and how he should be treated. He was very picky; when we went to shows away from home, we had to take four types of feed and four types of hay/haylage as you never knew what he’d decide to eat. But, in the right mood, bananas were always his favourite.

“He was fit and well right up to the end, passaging in from the field – he did love his party piece. I’d like to say a huge thanks to Sarah Randall at Chiltern Equine Clinic and Diana Hughes for their brilliant work over the last few difficult weeks during his short illness.”

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