Eventing Champion Headley Britannia Euthanized

Eventing Champion Headley Britannia Euthanized

Headley Britannia is the only mare in history to have won all three Rolex CCI**** Grand Slam Events: Burghley (2006), Badminton (2007), and Kentucky (2009).

Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

International champion four-star eventing mare Headley Britannia was euthanized yesterday (April 1) following a jumping accident close to home, according to her owner/rider Lucinda Fredericks.

“Brit” was jumping a small oxer (1 meter / 40 inches) on flat, grassy ground when she just “crumbled” upon landing and did not rise immediately, said Fredericks, 2008 Olympic silver medalist (representing the Australian team), of Devizes, in southwest England. Fredericks' student Alexandra Smith, was riding the mare at the time, but was unharmed.

“I could see right away that something was broken,” said Fredericks, who was schooling a younger horse with Brit and Smith. “There was a slightly unusual lump on the upper part of her leg, but there was no bleeding.”

Hattie Lawrence, BVSc, MRCVS, of Valley Equine Hospital in Lambourn, England, confirmed onsite that the 21-year-old mare had fractured her left radius (forearm) bone, Fredericks said.

“Brit was still in full work, but at a lesser level than she had been doing before, of course,” Fredericks told The Horse. “She was perfectly fit. She still looked like a million dollars, and she loved doing what she did. Just before her fall, she was galloping and jumping in beautiful countryside in the bright sunshine, and she was having a ball.”

A Thoroughbred/Irish Draft cross standing 15.3 hands, Headley Britannia earned a team silver medal in eventing at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She is the only mare in history to have won all three Rolex CCI**** Grand Slam Events—Burghley (2006), Badminton (2007), and Kentucky (2009). After an 11-year career, Brit was retired in 2013 but continued in light work and lower-level competitions, often ridden by Fredericks’s 10-year-old daughter Ellie.

“She had a heart of gold, and I could trust her with my daughter even when she was much younger,” Fredericks said. “But she could move like a lion when it was time to compete.” The mare was “never annoying” and was easy to manage—for everything except passing reins over her ears, she added.

And full-scale retirement was never her style, said Fredericks. “She wasn’t a horse that would have wanted to live out in the field for months,” she said. “Horses tell you what they want, and what she told us was that she was happy working.

“Brit defied all the odds,” she continued. “She was small; she wasn’t a great mover; was chestnut; she was a mare—everything you didn’t want in a horse, back when she started out. But she showed people that those things don’t necessarily matter. She especially opened people’s minds to mares. Today, there are a lot more mares out there in eventing competitions, and I believe that Brit had a lot to do with that.”

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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