One of the most consistent mounts of the five-star circuit received a well-earned retirement over the weekend at CSI Basel in Switzerland. For the connections of the 16-year-old gelding Abbervail van het Dingeshof, the stars aligned to provide a perfectly scripted sendoff after a long, and successful career.
Ireland’s Denis Lynch considers himself lucky to have had the ride on “Abbi” for the last decade – a stretch of time that is testament itself to both Lynch’s program, and the horse’s tenacity.
Purchased from Belgium’s Jos Lansink at the beginning of the gelding’s seven-year-old year, Abbi went to Lynch’s stables in Germany and from there, to competition stops around the world. Through the years Lynch and his primary sponsor and owner Thomas Straumann of Switzerland have maintained a close relationship, and it’s been a key factor in the success of Abbi’s career. Lynch coaches Thomas’ daughter, up and coming rider Flaminia Straumann, and for the Straumanns’ and Lynch’s whole team, Abbi is a favorite in the barn.
While at his home barn he spends all his time in his stall looking out of the window, no
“Anytime the horse loves his job, if you love the horse you do right by him.”
matter the season or weather, and is curious about everyone who passes by. With plenty of time in turnout and hacking time, and limited jumping at home, he was one of those horses that seemed to keep himself in top form.
“If you’d compare him to a human he’d be like your best friend,” Lynch said of his horse. “He’s been a good partner for me, and anytime the horse loves his job, if you love the horse you do right by him.”
Proving that age means nothing if you’re in top form, 2015 was a banner year for the two-time FEI World Cup Finals veteran (2011 & 2012). Abbi and Lynch won classes at Bordeaux, Goteburg and swept the CSI4* division at Braunschweig last March, winning the Grand Prix and two qualifiers. Last May he won ‘The Golden Whip’ Grand Prix for the second year in a row at CSI3* Norten-Hardenberg, Germany, earning the proud right to retire the Golden Whip trophy.
But those placings and wins didn’t mean quite so much as the victory that turned out to be Abbi’s last, on Saturday, January 9th 2016 at CSI Basel. The aptly named Prize of the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois CSI5* was sponsored by Straumann, who owns the said hotel in Basel. Lynch and Abbi claimed first place in a tough contest against eight pairs in the jumpoff and five other double clears, not an easy win by any means and one that was made all the more bittersweet by the decision that rider and owners came to soon after.
“He’s only 16 which for some jumpers is a young age, but he’d won the class the night before, and me and Mrs. Straumann agreed that retiring him then, it was the best way to finish his career,” Lynch explained. “It was a tough decision, but it was the right decision.”
Amid a silver platter of apples and carrots and a ceremonial untacking under the spotlight in the main arena, Lynch and the Straumanns paid homage to Abbi, who took it all in stride as Lynch unbuckled his girth and led him out of the arena for the last time.
“You don’t remember great footballers if their last season was poor. The great ones, all the great ones, retire at the top,” Lynch added. “There were definitely some more horse shows in him, but I’m a big believer in that you ride them as long as they want to do it while they’re at the top, and then you give them a good retirement.”
Abbi will be retired to the Straumanns’ private farm in Switzerland, where he’ll have plenty of open fields and relaxing days to look forward to.
“He’s a brilliant horse, I’m going to miss him,” Lynch said. “A lot of horses don’t get retired when they should, or aren’t lucky enough to have the owner and rider at the same time, have the same feeling that it’s a good time to retire. And I thought, even though he didn’t win any gold medals or that carry on, he is a brilliant horse with a brilliant career.”
We share with you a few parting images from Abbervail van het Dingeshof’s 2015 season: