Winning racehorse turned five-star eventer Soladoun retires

  • Irish rider Elizabeth “Esib” Power has paid tribute to her retired five-star competitor and phenomenal cross-country horse, Soladoun.

    The 15-year-old former racehorse, which Elizabeth owns with Richard Ames, won at flat as a three-year-old before switching to eventing and will now spend his retirement ‘lacking for nothing’ at Elizabeth’s farm.

    Career highlights for the French-bred Madoun son include ninth place at the Burghley Horse Trials in 2018, a win at the Kilguilkey CCI4*-S and third at Gatcombe and Chatsworth CIC3*s (now CCI4*-S) in the Year 2016. His last start was at the Badminton Horse Trials that year where he improved 18 places after dressage by jumping clear over Eric Winter’s cross-country course. Injury meant he was not presented for the final trot and ties have ended his career.

    “I’ve always believed in him. I don’t know why because as an intermediate horse he was really naughty – he ran out all the time. He was so bold. I just always thought that if he got through that he would be a fantastic cross country horse,” said Elizabeth H&H.

    “He will retire here and he will want for nothing. He’s the nicest, nicest person in the stable. He is such a beautiful horse.”

    Elizabeth has had “Alfie” since the beginning of her eventing career.

    “Jackie Green and I bought it from Alan King’s backyard,” she said. “I was stationed at Jackie’s at the time and used to ride at Kingy’s. That’s how it all started. I’m very good friends with Alan and I’ve had one or two of his before Soladoun – they have become successful and good horses for everyone they are with.

    “Ex-racehorses are something I enjoy – it’s a risk and I’ve been very fortunate. Physically he really was and still is an ex-racehorse. He’s not your modern day eventing horse that fills in and you wouldn’t recognize it. He’s always had that thoroughbred look about him.”

    She added that that’s why the dressage is challenging – not because he’s doing anything wrong, but because of his physical build.
    “He gave me everything he could and really put a lot of effort into his badminton test,” she said, adding that badminton is one of four disciplines that he has included in his career “not for the sake of fame,” but rather because of the horse he is said to have performed as he did.

    Soladoun missed all of 2019 through injury. He returned in 2020 and won Kilguilkey CCI4*-S but unfortunately suffered another injury. When Burghley was cancelled, Elizabeth gave him an extra year off. He returned to competition in March 2022 and enjoyed three runs before badminton.

    “He hadn’t competed in four years to go right back and see all these people in dressage. And looking back, it’s incredible to keep driving across the country and delivering the performance that he did,” said Elizabeth.

    His podium at the Event Rider Masters CIC3* (now CCI4*-S) at Gatcombe in 2016 marked the first of those four memorable runs.
    The pair were in last place after dressage and their cross-country performance – the fastest of the day – propelled them up the leaderboard to finish third.

    “It was a very special day,” Elizabeth said. “He shone and everyone saw him. When I saw that he wasn’t a follower, he really stood out that day.”

    In 2017 he timed at Chatsworth, adding a seventh rosette to his third place finish at the 2016 event.

    “You go around thinking it’s not possible to make the time and he was in a beautiful rhythm,” she said. “He was a winner at level, he wasn’t a ‘slow’ racehorse – you can definitely tell the difference.

    “Then there was Burghley 2018. It’s been so long since I’ve raced at this level. I had expectations, but no one else had expectations of me.

    “It was incredible that he performed the way he did. Rather, it was how ridiculously easy it felt to him. Burghley wasn’t supposed to feel easy and it was one of the toughest years. He peed around for fun and that was one of my favorite runs with him.”

    The pair toppled a rail on the final day to finish ninth, Elizabeth’s best five-star finish.

    “He won’t go down as a horse that’s won a lot, but he’s accomplished a lot,” said Elizabeth.

    “It took those big runs at the big tracks for him to get noticed. It’s hard in modern sport when these flashy guys are taking the spotlight at the lower levels. That’s what I love about badminton and burghley; You still take a horse with courage and determination. And I think it’s really important that they stay that way. If they change I think there would be no place for horses like him in the modern sport and that would be such a shame. I hope the sport doesn’t lose sight of that. It would be a really sad day for the sport if there was no place for these horses.”

    In announcing his retirement, Elizabeth said she has “so many emotions” but is only focused on one thing – pride.

    “My superstar horse gave me everything and he definitely left everything on the field. Unfortunately, his body doesn’t allow him to have the superstar career that he so deserves and definitely wants,” she said on her Facebook page.

    “Alfie gave everything in terms of performance in badminton. He did a super test and jumped a super tough five star with ease. Not as fast as usual, but looking back it’s a miracle he did what he did. He loves his cross country and with the crowds I’ve ever seen playing badminton, his last cross country will go down in history as one of his best.

    “Me and Richard Ames are bursting with pride in our amazing boy. Of course we are heartbroken but we have Alfie at home and he is fine and will have the best life that a superstar like him so richly deserves. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and Alfie is definitely one of mine.

    “Perspective is also very important and I send all my love and best wishes to Nicola Wilson for a very speedy recovery. A fabulous driver and person we are all thinking about right now.”

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