Much like Aintree and Cheltenham have their equine heroes etched into racing folklore, so the sport of eventing can roll out its own honours list.
Double Badminton champions Supreme Rock and Sir Wattie, ridden by Pippa Funnell and Ian Stark, respectively, would feature very close to the top of any eventing winners’ board. And while debates will rage about the identity of eventing’s greatest horses – there have been so many – no-one could argue that Avebury well and truly deserves his place among the elite.
The 16-year-old grey gelding has an astonishingly consistent record. In 80 competitive outings since making its British Eventing debut in a pre-novice class at West Wiltshire, near Trowbridge, nine years ago this month, Avebury can boast a remarkable 63 top-10 finishes, including 24 first places, 13 runners-up spots and four thirds.
But during the last three years, he has moved up another gear, claiming title hat-tricks at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and the St James’ Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials through performances of sheer brilliance in New Zealander Andrew Nicholson‘s expert hands.
Avebury finished sixth, seventh and second during the last three years on British Eventing’s horse rankings list, and, with more than 2,000 ranking points to his name, he represents a success story of the very highest order.
The quest for a fourth successive Barbury crown is set to begin in just two weeks’ time, with Nicholson and the Wiltshire-based wonderhorse guaranteed a special welcome, whatever happens across the dressage, showjumping and cross-country tests of Barbury’s CIC*** class.
And this year, there will be special significance behind Avebury’s cross-country appearance, as Barbury’s signature fence – the stone circle – has now been named after him.
Owned by Rosemary Barlow and ridden by Nicholson, Avebury was named after the world heritage site near to Barbury – the Avebury Stone Circles – and there is little doubt that he will be the people’s choice to land a fourth successive crown, despite the presence of a world-class field that also includes Nicholson’s 2012 London Olympics ride Nereo and Oliver Townend‘s recent recruit, Fenyas Elegance.
But the Wiltshire horse has already triumphed this year as the star of its own film. The newly-released short– The Avebury Story – documents his outstanding achievements.
“Avebury loves Barbury, and he also loves the camera, so filming the video was good fun,” says Nicholson. “We are all proud of what he has achieved here, and we look forward to being back at Barbury in a couple of weeks’ time.
“He is a horse that seems to like going back to certain places. To win here three times in a row on a horse that was born near Barbury and is named after a local landmark feels pretty good.”
Barbury International Horse Trials chairman Nigel Bunter adds: “After winning Barbury for a remarkable third time, and with Avebury’s local connections, we wanted a lasting tribute. And we felt that renaming our most iconic cross-country fence was a fitting tribute to a wonderful horse.
“We hope Avebury fans will enjoy our film on him. We want to encourage as many as possible to visit Barbury in July to see a living legend and maybe history repeating itself with a four-timer!”