Eventing mare Headley Brittania is to be retired from the top level of the sport and may team up with a young rider – eight-year-old Ellie Fredericks.
Headley Brittania – or Brit – won team silver at the Beijing Olympics, but at the age of 19 her connections decided another Olympic tilt would be too much to ask.
Ridden from 2002 to 2011 by Lucinda Fredericks, the 15.3hh mare won Blenheim 3*, Badminton 4*, Burghley 4*, Rolex Kentucky 4*, the Hickstead Eventing Derby, and was third in the Luhmuhlen 4*.
Brit’s win in the 2006 Burghley Horse Trials was the first by a mare in 33 years, and her 2007 Badminton win was the first victory by a mare in 53 years.
“Her record is outstanding, starting with a win at the first event I rode her at in 2002 and the last event in 2011,” Fredericks said. “It is very tempting to try one last time for [Olympic] Gold, especially as she is so fit and well, but she is very precious to our team and family and at her age have decided that to push her to the highest levels again will be too much to ask.
“It was a very tough decision not to aim for Olympic qualification, but she has done much more than I could ever have expected. She is so valuable to us that I could never forgive myself if I had asked her to compete one more time at this level and something had happened to her,” said Fredericks, who has owned Brit since 2007 when owners Katinka and Neil Thorburn gifted Brit to her.
“She has been a part of our family for 10 years and owes us nothing more.”
Brit will have an official retirement ceremony at Badminton, and there are plans for breeding via embryo transfer. Brit already has two ET foals, Little Brittania and Brittania’s Mail, sired by Jaguar Mail in 2008. She will do some lower level competitions may also be ridden by Lucinda’s daughter Ellie.
For the last two years, Fredericks hasn’t wanted to risk competing Brit on hard ground, as with her shorter legs and stride the 15.3hh mare has to work twice as hard as any other horse.
All this makes ‘Brit’ the only mare to win her own Rolex Grand Slam, a feat managed by only one other horse. She is also the current holder of the lowest finishing score at a four star, finishing on 32.3 penalties in Kentucky.
Always small compared to the competition, her competitive spirit, manoeuvrability, sheer guts and a will to win have propelled her to the top.
“One final dream is for Ellie to have her first season of BE events on Brit. What a lucky little girl!.
“It has been wonderful that Brit has been able to end her eventing career on a high at top level in a fit, sound and healthy state,” she said.
Brit’s ova will be offered to breeders for embryo transfer.