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‘A really pricey good friend’: Oliver Townend’s medal-winning five-star occasion horse retires sound, completely satisfied and on the prime of his sport

  • Oliver Townend’s five-star and championship medal-winning ride Cooley Master Class is retiring, “sound, happy and at the top of his game”.

    Oliver announced today (24 May) that the 17-year-old is to enjoy his retirement with his co-owner Angela Hislop, hacking out and spending time in the field.

    Oliver, who described the Ramiro B gelding as “a fantastic competition partner and a very dear friend”, told H&H the time was right to call it a day.

    “He’s done his best, and more than his best,” he said. “He looks a million dollars but he’s finishing sound and happy and at the top of his game, and that’s very important to me.”

    Oliver bought Cooley as a four-year-old, producing him from BE100 level to the very top of the sport.

    The pair won back-to-back Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* titles, in 2018 and 2019, and led the British team to win silver at the 2019 European Championships, as the best-placed team combination. They came second at the first Maryland 5 Star last year, and in total, had 16 top-10 placings at international events, including six wins.

    But asked what was the highlight of their time together, Oliver said: “Just riding him. Just enjoying riding him as a horse, who gave his all. Every time I cantered him into the showjumping ring, there was less pressure than riding any other horse, for the simple reason that if you did your job, he’d do his. He always tried his heart out, which is why his form at the top level was what it was.”

    Oliver said he could see from the start what Cooley was capable of achieving.

    “I knew straight away,” he said. “There was never any question, and everybody knew it. Not just because of his talent but also his personality. He’s got a very special character and every groom who’s looked after him has fallen in love with him. Every single person who’s set eyes on him, whether at a competition or just in his field, immediately loved him. I don’t know what it is but you can’t say that about many horses.”

    Oliver said he “never really had to train” Cooley in many areas; he asked him for a flying change, for example, or shoulder-in, and the horse picked it up and knew what to do.

    “I just asked him and he did it, and for me, that’s what makes a good horse,” he said. “And he was never not happy, never not had his ears forward in work, never not cheeky. Every day was a positive one.”

    Oliver added that most of his horses will stay with him in retirement but it had long been agreed that Cooley would go to Angela.

    “She’s had horses who have retired and they’re into their 30s, they want for nothing,” he said, adding that he will still be able to visit the horse.

    “It’s the same as my other horses, like Lanfranco or Carousel Quest, for me it’s very important they don’t have one run too many,” he said. “I like the way Cooley’s finished and it was the right time, but there will never be another one the same as him.”
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