A legend retires. Avebury has been withdrawn from Badminton and retired from competition by owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow.
“This is a day we were all dreading,” said Rosemary Barlow. “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, by Jumbo out of Memento, was bred and broken by Andrew Nicholson, a fortunate pairing that would go on to make eventing history. But the grey, nicknamed Buddy by Nicholson’s daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, didn’t start his competitive life with the New Zealand champion. Instead, he was sold to go showjumping, where he had some success. Wiggy Nicholson, Andrew’s wife, then bought him back when he was six and evented him, winning a novice competition at Gatcombe — until Nicholson ‘nicked’ the horse from her.
“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.”
A star combination was born. In their first season together, in 2007, Nicholson and Avebury won the CCI* at Tattersalls, finished second in the British Novice Championships at Gatcombe and placed fourth in the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers. They went on to take the CCI2* at Tattersalls (in 2008) and the CCI3* at Saumur (in 2009).
From 2012, they were unstoppable, claiming the Barbury Castle title four times (2012 to 2015) and Burghley three times (2012-2014) — Avebury is the only horse to have achieved this remarkable feat. The pair were poised for a fourth Burghley victory when Nicholson broke his neck after a fall at Gatcombe and had to end his season.
This year, Avebury competed at Great Witchingham in March, where he won. These days, however, “he just doesn’t quite feel like he used to,” says Nicholson. As a result, the Barlows took the decision to retire him.
“Avebury is a horse of a lifetime and owes us nothing, “ says Barlow. “Sometimes in his younger years he could be a little bit naughty, but he has been a complete joy to own. 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 with the Nicholsons at Westwood: “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,” says Nicholson.
“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.”
Top image: Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at Westwood Stud by Edward Whitaker/Racing Post Books