Top eventer Headley Britannia dies at 21

Headley Brittania and Lucinda Fredericks
Headley Brittania and Lucinda Fredericks

Top-class eventing mare Headley Britannia was euthanised on Tuesday at the age of 21 at the home of owner and rider Lucinda Fredericks.

In a statement, Wiltshire-based Australian rider Fredericks said Brit was being ridden by her working pupil Alexandra Smith during cross-country schooling. She was going well and they had jumped about 20 fences, when she landed on perfect ground over a 1.40m oxer, “and she just crumbled”.

Hattie Lawrence, BVSc, MRCVS, of Valley Equine Hospital in Lambourn, England, was called and confirmed that the mare had fractured her left radius (forearm) bone.

“I am so grateful that I had about 20 minutes so say goodbye to her and thank her for everything,” Fredericks said.

“Brit was the best horse I could have ever hoped to have ridden and I owe her so much. We were having so much fun today in the beautiful sunshine cross-country schooling. I was so pleased to be with her for her last moments. She remained calm, steady and was peaceful at the end.

“I am so thankful for the partnership I had with Brit, she was one in a million. She was small but had such a huge heart. She was a true professional and made my career what it is, and without her I wouldn’t be where I am. She was my best friend. She touched so many people’s lives and always brought a smile to everyone’s face.”

Brit was a British bred mare by the illustrious Irish eventing stallion Jumbo and out of thoroughbred mare Alan’s Bambi, by Alanrod.

She was one of only two horses to have won all three of the top four-star events (Badminton, Burghley, and Kentucky). She retired from top level competition in 2012 but enjoyed a win at Express Eventing in 2013. She competed in an unaffiliated intro event at Aston-le-Walls with Smith last month, finishing ninth.

Brit was sent to Lucinda to be sold in 2002, but no-one wanted a small chestnut mare whose ears could not be touched, and so she stayed. That year she won Blenheim.

After winning Badminton she went to stud for embryo transfer. In 2008, she won a team silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, and had two ET foals by Jaguar Mail; Britannia’s Mail, and Little Britannia, both of whom will be continuing their mother’s legacy and are competing this weekend. She has had five other ET foals.

Brit was cremated on Wednesday morning, and some of her ashes would be placed in their garden and a tree planted. The rest of the ashes were being taken to Salisbury Plain “to blow around free up there.”

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