The 7 show jumpers of a lifetime

By Julie Harding on |

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Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly, one of the best show jumpers of all times

Some horses are able to stir deep emotions and none more so than elegant, powerful show jumpers. Here is our pick of the seven horses that made a difference to the sport.


Sir Harry Llewellyn and the 16.3hh bay Foxhunter formed the first great show jumping partnership of the modern era.

They hit the headlines when winning team bronze at the 1948 London Olympics when Foxhunter was only eight. Then they went on to clinch a longed-for gold medal for Britain at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, elevating the team from its lowly fifth placing following the first round. As a result, they were fêted long before the cult of celebrity was commonplace.

Purchased by Sir Harry after he had studied every horse listed with the British Show Jumping Association, Foxhunter also won the King George V Gold Cup three times and was on 12 winning Nations Cup teams. When he died, aged 19, many people, not least his rider, mourned.


One of the most diminutive show jumpers of all time, what the 14.2hh pony Stroller lacked in inches he made up for in courage and ability.

Purchased by the Coakes family for a 13-year-old Marion (later Mould), Stroller was almost sold when his rider was set to make the transition to horses. Luckily the partnership stayed intact and the pair went on to achieve incredible things, notably winning the Hickstead Derby, the Hamburg Derby, the Queen Elizabeth Cup (twice), gold at the Ladies World Championship and silver at the 1968 Mexico Olympics where the fences were significantly bigger than Stroller was.

He was retired two years later, already a legend in his own lifetime.


Irish rider Eddie Macken’s bay, Boomerang, who was invariably ridden in a hackamore, sparked fear into all his rivals throughout the 1970s — everyone knew who was likely to come off best in any contest.

The incredible pair blazed a trail that saw them capture four Hickstead Derbys in succession, a host of Grands Prix, and individual World Championship silver in 1978, which would — and should — have been gold, had Eddie not notched up a time fault aboard one of his rival’s horses.

So revered was Boomerang that the Emerald Isle still remembers its most famous Irish Sport Horse by Battleburn.

Penwood Forge Mill

A bay of unknown breeding, but likely to have boasted some Irish Draught, Penwood Forge Mill became intrinsically linked with Paddy McMahon, an Englishman despite his Irish sounding name, and together the pair won all around the world.

Their crowning glory was victory at the 1973 European Championships at Hickstead, a form of compensation for missing the previous year’s Olympics due to Forge Mill’s below par performance at the final trial.

Boasting a fan club, the thick set bay was ridden for the final two years of his career by Geoff Glazzard, who once said: “Forgie wasn’t built to jump, but he had such a big heart.”


One of the greatest jumpers of all time, the grey Milton — the first £1m winner in the sport — would have been Caroline Bradley’s horse of a lifetime, had she not tragically died aged just 37 when he was still a young horse.

It would be two years before he found his way into John Whitaker’s yard where an extraordinary partnership was born.

Their successes were numerous and Milton’s extraordinarily effortless style captivated all who saw it. But despite individual European gold (1989) and World Games silver (1990), the grey was cruelly denied the Olympic medal he so deserved during a disastrous final round at the 1992 Barcelona Games when deep going caused him to trip and stop.


Irish army rider John Ledingham’s name will be forever associated with the great Kilbaha, an Irish Sport Horse who gave his rider two Hickstead Derby victories and made 32 appearances on Irish Nation’s Cup teams.

The chestnut proved incredibly consistent and was renowned as a careful jumper who excelled at outdoor competitions, hence his love of Hickstead.

“He was the best horse I’ve ever sat on,” Ledingham once said. Kilbaha, by Tudor Rocket, died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 28.


Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum enjoyed an extraordinary partnership with the incredibly talented but spooky and sensitive Shutterfly, with whom she won three FEI World Cup finals, a first for a female show jumper.

Additionally, they notched up two bronze medals at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and individual gold and team silver at the Mannheim European Championships and in all banked a cool €3.5m in prize-money.

Michaels-Beerbaum once described her great horse as an accordion because of his ability to shorten and lengthen his stride, giving him a huge advantage over technical tracks.

Despite his nervous nature, his zest for jumping was obvious and on his retirement in Aachen in 2011 55,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation.

Top image: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly — one of the most acclaimed show jumpers of all times — at the FEI World Cup 2007 by Louis via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0


1 Comment

  1. Jill Perrior

    I’ve never even heard of the last two horses on this list. Ryan’s Son, Tosca or Mister Softee would have been better choices!


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