Final farewell for Nick Skelton and Big Star

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Big Star and Nick Skelton before their retirement ceremony at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday.
Big Star and Nick Skelton before their retirement ceremony at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday.

British Olympic jumping champions Nick Skelton and Big Star had their final farewell at the weekend, as the pair were officially retired from competition in a ceremony on the final day at Royal Windsor Horse Show.

In front of The Queen and packed out grandstands, Skelton was joined by his family, owners, fellow Team GB riders and loyal groom, Mark Beaver, to say his final goodbye.

Skelton’s youngest son, professional jockey Harry Skelton, was unable to attend due to racing commitments but left a message for his father that was read out to the crowd:

“Dad, I’m so sorry I’m not there, but when I asked you if I should go racing today or come down to Windsor, you said, go and do your job and try and ride some winners. I thought; that is what has got you to where you are, your hard work, dedication and determination.

“My first great memory of you in the ring was when Dollar Girl won the World Cup Final in 95. You went through so much from then to Rio 2016, and when you finally reached your childhood dream to take individual gold, was the best day of my life. I am the proudest son alive and so glad you’ve stopped at the top. I hope I will make you as proud as I am of you one day.”

Nick Skelton and Big Star on their way to winning individual gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Nick Skelton and Big Star on their way to winning individual gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. © Arnd Bronkhorst

There was not a dry eye in the house as Skelton dismounted Big Star, took the saddle off his back – a long standing tradition when a horse is retired – and walked a final lap of honour in-hand to a standing ovation. The crowd cheered to mark their respect and admiration for Skelton, whose career spanned five decades.

With a final wave to the adoring crowd, the Olympic gold medal winning duo exited the arena to start their well-deserved retirement.

On Saturday at the show, Skelton received the BHS Queen’s Award for Equestrianism.

» In the Nick of time: Comeback gold for horse sport’s Big Stars

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