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‘The spotlight was discovering him, the remainder was a dream’: Farewell to worldwide showjumper who made goals come true

  • The rider and an owner of a horse who made their dreams reality have paid tribute to the “one in a million” grey after his death aged 21.

    Calaero, who was owned by Paula Bishenden and Linda Savage, and his rider Darren Wise were stalwarts of the area trial and county show circuit, and qualified for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in the Foxhunter and grade C finals. But they also competed in the Hickstead Derby and speed Derby and numerous other international classes.

    Darren told H&H he sought veterinary advice last week as “Jojo”, seemed to be having some respiratory issues. The vet found fluid on the horse’s lungs and he was treated and seemed better.

    On Friday (28 May), Darren took Jojo to the field to turn him out.

    “It was like it was meant to be,” he said. “He just went down and that was it. It wasn’t like when they get really ill, and you have to call the vet and have them put to sleep, it was just me and him, in the field under the oak trees.

    “In a way, it made me feel better that we didn’t have the trauma or having to make the choice, and I don’t think he knew anything about it.”

    Darren added that when he got into his car afterwards, Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable was playing on the radio. The next morning, when he did the same thing, the song was playing again.

    “I was extremely lucky to come across him and to have done what we did together,” he said. “I’d never have been able to do all the things we did together, or learned to do what I do without him. He took me from doing this leisurely to HOYS, Hickstead; all the things people dream of, we did together.”

    Darren previously told H&H he took Jojo on as a four-year-old, as he was “too wild” for his intended rider.

    “He was just very special,” he said. “He was very quirky and even last week, aged 21, it was like he was a five-year-old. He was the horse no one wanted, who was ‘untrainable’, but by the time he was eight or nine, the number of people who were trying to buy him was ridiculous. I’m so glad they didn’t.”

    Darren added that his career highlights included winning the Foxhunter second round at Addington, which took them to HOYS, in 2010, and the grade C qualifier at the South of England the following year, earning their second ticket.

    “And most of all the international classes,” he said. “People dream of riding in the main ring at Hickstead and he won in there; he did that for me. But the real highlight was coming across him in the first place. The rest was a dream.

    “The place isn’t the same without him and my kids are devastated as they’d known him all their lives. I was thinking did I really want to carry on, but I’ll do it for him. He didn’t teach me all that for me to say ‘That’s it’. Everything I do from now on will be for him because I wouldn’t have been doing it without him. He was one in a million.”

    Linda Savage told H&H she bought into Jojo about five years ago “by accident”. She had got to know Darren after she badly broke her knee and he took on the ride of another horse she owned. They became friends and when Linda admired Jojo, Darren asked if she wanted to buy a share.

    “That’s what we did and we’ve had the most amazing time,” she said. “Jo has done so much; I’ve got rosettes all over the room.

    “The first time I met Jo, I patted him and said ‘Hello darling’. He looked down at me, because he was so big, as if to say ‘I don’t know who you are but you look like you’ll be all right for Polos’.

    “He was a lovely horse. Not the easiest but when he saw the jumps, he was just ‘Let me at them’. He’d had a full vet MoT this spring and been given an A1 rating to jump.

    “It’s so sad but Jo didn’t feel anything, he didn’t know.”

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