Irish Sport Horse and eventing legend Lenamore soaked up the applause from enthusiastic well-wishers at his final official appearance at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday.
The 15.3hh gelding, known at home as Ed, was officially retired in March by owners Lexi Jackson, her mother Janie Mackinnon and rider Caroline Powell, but delighted the Badminton crowd by prancing round the main arena looking fighting fit.
The legendary grey, aged 20, has been flying the flag for Irish Sport Horses since he first started competing at the age of six.
Sired by Mary McCann's Sea Crest, who also produced the famous jumping star Cruising among others, Lenamore was bred by Helen and Ted Walsh at Greenhills, Kill, Naas, Co Kildare out of a National Hunt mare, Karinella, by Valiyar (TB).
"We bought four or five mares that year in Goffs and brought them to Mary McCann at Hartwell Stud just down the road from us. Lenamore's dam had raced a bit but she wasn't much of a racer," recalled Ted.
"We sold all the foals the following year and, while they weren't all of Lenamore's calibre, they were all good horses. One of Lenamore's comrades went to Leslie Fitzpatrick and went on to become a Grade A jumping mare.
"We used to meet up with Lenamore when Katie was still on the junior eventing circuit," he added. "One of the things that really stood out about him was his soundness. Along with his ability, he was unbelievably tough and sound."
Although the bouncing grey did not know it, the London 2012 Olympics proved to be Lenamore's swan song event when Caroline Powell and Lenamore were part of the bronze medal winning New Zealand team at the remarkable age of 19.
Following a break back home in the Mackinnon's Scottish home, the gelding returned to Caroline Powell's yard in January 2013 looking fit, well and ready to step up the work for Badminton.
However, the owners and rider decided after a routine vet check that Badminton might be a trip too far.
According to the owners, stepping down to lower level to compete would not have suited the charismatic horse.
"Not for Lenamore the indignity of a step down ... if he can't go four-star he would not want to do it at all," remarked Lexi Jackson, announcing his retirement.
Lenamore began eventing in 1999 at the age of six and was produced by Lexi Jackson through to advanced and CCI ***. After finishing 14th at the Bramham U25s in 2004, she handed over the reins of her talented but unpredictable ride to Powell.
The pair immediately clicked, racking up wins at Auchinleck advanced and Tetton AI and finishing third at Blair CCI*** in their three runs that autumn.
Lenamore's record at Badminton is outstanding, with seven consecutive completions and never finishing lower than 12th since 2007.
His Burghley record was just as impressive, with five completions. In fact, the three years he missed were due to his team callings at the Aachen Worlds in 2006, Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London Olympics 2012. In 2010, he won Burghley with a finishing score of 38.7 penalties.
The Irish Sport Horse flew the flag for tough and sound Irish-bred horses, completing two CCI**** events every year without ever having a day's sickness or unsoundness.
For a small horse, Lenamore had a very big personality and at London 2012, it was rumoured that Powell would not warm him up for his crucial dressage test, a strategy that not many riders would contemplate.
"There is a big misconception that he is not warmed up for dressage, which is not quite true. He has a lot of work at a three-day but just not in the last session before his test!" remarked Lexi.
However, his infamous rapid departure from the collecting ring was certainly one of his trademarks. Two people, one on either side, are needed to escort him back to his stable after the cross-country at an event because he gets so feisty.
Lenamore will retire to the Mackinnon home in Scotland and remain in light work for the foreseeable future.
Lucinda Frederick's famous mare Headley Britannia was also paraded at Badminton following her retirement in 2012.
Another diminutive horse, 15.3hh 'Brit' defied all the stereotypes of a chestnut mare by taking on and beating all of her opposition.
Her greatest accomplishments included a win at the 2006 Burghley Horse Trials, becoming the first mare in 33 years to do so.
Her win at the 2007 Badminton Horse Trials made her the first mare in 53 years to do so and she also won the 2009 Rolex Kentucky Three Day.
Her third place at the 2006 Luhmuhlen three-day event was another great result, having taken a fall the previous year on cross-country and then contracting a virus which nearly killed her.
She is one of only two horses in history to have won all three of the top four-star events (Badminton, Burghley, and Rolex). In 2007, her owners Katinka and Neil Thorburn gifted her to Lucinda Fredericks and she has since produced two foals by embryo transfer in 2008. Little Britannia and Britannia's Mail were sired by the stallion Jaguar Mail.
Meanwhile, Ireland's Austin O'Connor and Kate Jarvey's Ringwood Mississippi (ISH) were best of the Irish at the Rolex four-star event in Kentucky recently.
A score of just four faults in the showjumping phase moved the Cork rider up from 19th position overnight to finish 13th in the USA's top three-day event.
Speaking after the competition, 38-year-old former Olympian O'Connor said he was delighted with the result.
"Ringwood Mississippi proved that he's a real contender for the future. I'm delighted with the result and how the horse improved throughout the competition," he remarked.
"We're over the moon with the performance, as it was beyond our wildest expectations. Kentucky was very good to us," said owner Kate Jarvey.
Flying the flag for Irish breeding, nine Irish-bred horses finished in the top 18 places at the prestigious event. Calico Joe finished third for New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson, while Ballynoe Castle RM (ISH) was placed fourth for the USA's Buck Davidson.
More than one-third (14) of the Kentucky entries were Irish-bred, including Ballylaffin Bracken, ridden by Kristin Schmolze on his four-star debut.
The 17.3hh bay Irish Sport Horse gelding was bred in Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary by Catherine Long out of Ballylaffin Florence and sired by Ricardo Z, who stands at the nearby Kedrah House Stud.
The big bay was named the 2012 PRO Tour Series Haygain Horse of the Year in the US and is one of a number of Irish Sport Horses in Schmolze's yard, many of whom were sourced by Irish event horse agent Clare Ryan.
Some young Irish horses starting to make a mark in the States include Cooley Cross Border, winner of the USAE young event horse final last October under Kim Severson.
Bred by John Duffy and produced by Richard Sheane at his yard in Ballinaoola, Co Wicklow, Cooley Cross Border is by John Kearney's ISH sire Diamond Roller, out of Who's Diaz (ISH) by Osilvis (KWPN).
Following his impressive win in the USAE young event horse final, Cooley Cross Border featured on the front cover of the USA Eventing Magazine.
Interestingly, Cooley Cross Border's full sister, Rock And Roller, also made the headlines last year as the top-priced mare at last year's Go for Gold event horse sale.
She sold for €23,000 to Roberto Rotatori, who represented Italy at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Meanwhile, Irish-bred horses were also to the fore at Badminton over the weekend. Eight Irish riders, all mounted on Irish Sport Horses, took on Hugh Thomas's famous cross-country course in front of Badminton House.
These included Olympic rider Aoife Clarke on Master Crusoe (ISH), Sarah Ennis and her mare Sugar Brown Babe (ISH), Peter Hannigan and First Mate (ISH), Olympic rider Joseph Murphy and Electric Cruise (ISH), Jim Newsam and Magennis (ISH), Elizabeth Power and September Bliss (ISH), Michael Ryan and Ballylynch Skyport (ISH) and Sam Watson on his experienced campaigner Horseware Bushman (ISH).
Next week's Farming Independent will include a detailed analysis of the Irish performances and interviews with the riders.