King Eider, the much-loved “character” who competed in 10 five-star events with Louisa Milne Home, was euthanized on July 12 at the age of 22.
Affectionately known as Duck, the Toulon son was enjoying his retirement caring for Louisa’s younger horses when he was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer.
“It was very unexpected,” Louisa said H&H. “He was in great shape and was still being ridden and had a lot of fun until the end.”
Louisa and her mother Caroline bought Duck from Alistair Gatherum, who had imported the 17.1 cm warmblood gelding from Belgium when he was four years old.
“We’ve known Duck since he was two years old and Mom was always very fond of him. He was huge and very lanky, it took him a long time to grow into himself, but he developed into a very intelligent horse,” said Louisa.
Louisa and Duck worked their way up and completed their first advanced level show jumping test together in Eglinton in 2009. In 2011 they made their five-star (then four-star) debut in Luhmühlen, where they cleared overland and finished 19th. In the same year they completed their first Burghley.
In 2013 her badminton debut, which had been delayed by the event’s cancellation in 2012 due to heavy rain, was called into question when after Duck’s final preparatory run at Burnham Markert he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition causing an irregular and rapid heart causes rating. After undergoing a veterinary procedure to correct this, he was given the green light to participate. That year, Duck was one of only 12 horses to clear overland in both badminton and burghley.
Of their 10 five-star starts, Louisa and Duck completed burghley five times and badminton three times, and in 2015 the pair were longlisted for the 2015 European Championships at Blair Castle.
“He was a five-star horse through and through – and he had no Thoroughbred in him at all,” said Louisa.
“He was always healthy and you never had to worry on the day of a trot, he always came out and shone. He loved a party and we had a lot of fun together. At a Burghley we were the first to go off road and it was one of his best laps. We just have to go out there and do our own thing. He was a very nice horse to go first with.”
Duck developed a large following and Louisa said he really enjoyed the crowd.
“He was always looking for the cameras. He was such a friendly horse and was really looking forward to standing and having his picture taken. I’m glad his time was pre-Covid because he wouldn’t have appreciated crowds!” said Louisa.
“He also had the greatest character – and he wasn’t above making me look stupid. We had to practice really thin jumps as he could run out, not because he couldn’t jump them, but because he found it very entertaining. After badminton we went to my local event in Hopetoun and had two run outs at a skinny. At this event you could see the character that oozed out of him – the photos of him were very amusing, he just looked like the naughtiest schoolboy.
“We used to have to put a clip on his barn door too or he would let himself out and when he was playing badminton he would let himself out and drive to the truck. He also once cantered back from a trot at Burghley. He had to have very high fences at home, otherwise he jumped out – and he always freaked out on the field when he tried to get in. He had a very big personality.”
Louisa and Duck rode at their last badminton in 2019, but when they took a break, they retired. This was Duck’s last event and he competed successfully in show jumping before retiring from competition later that year.
“The main thing was that I always wanted him to come home safe and sound. When we made the badminton stop, I thought, ‘That’s enough; we don’t have to do this, you’ve already completed it three times,” she said.
“He qualified for the second rounds of Foxhunter show jumping and we competed in the Royal Highland Show. When he retired later that year he stayed at home working and was a great nanny to the other horses.”
Louisa said Duck will be greatly missed by everyone.
“He’s still up here on the hill, so he can watch the whole yard and be here forever.”
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