The odds-defying Irish Sport Horse stallion Flexible has come to the end of his incredible career, rider Rich Fellers confirmed on Friday, April 7, 2017.
Twenty-one-year-old Flexible (Cruising x Safari) made history around the world during his successful career that spanned nearly a decade. Ridden by the USA’s Fellers, he broke a quarter-century drought of US World Cup victories in 2012, when he won the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland. Fellers and Flexible competed in eight FEI World Cup Jumping Finals together, from 2009 – 2016.
That unforgettable 2012 win—earned in a heart-stopping jumpoff against Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat—was followed by Fellers’ and Flexible’s selection to the United States Show Jumping Team for the 2012 London Olympic Games. In their Olympic debut, they finished in individual 8th place as the highest placed American pair. Even then Flexible’s age of 16 was marveled at—little did the world know that he would go on to compete at the top level for four more seasons.
Flexible’s return to the sport after recovery from multiple, career-threatening injuries is well-documented and only made his achievements more impressive and his relationship with Fellers, who always believed in the diminutive stallion, all the more touching. Fellers has long referred to Flexible as his friend, and he always worked to keep the stallion’s well-being in mind.
It’s Flexible’s longevity that kept Fellers hoping for more rounds with him; even now, at age 21, the stallion feels fit, sound and happy.
“I don’t think of myself as being a very emotional person, but I think I was very emotional about this; it was really difficult for me. I wanted to keep going with him and show him some more this year,” Fellers explained. “I know this horse still has some wins in him, and I knew he could keep paying his way and paying the bills, but that’s not a good reason to keep going with a horse. It took me quite some time to accept that. He’s sound, he’s healthy, he’s happy. But for sure, at 21-years-old, Father Time is taking a toll on him. Even though he looks and feels so great, it’s important not to deny the effects of aging.”
Fellers and Flexible won an astounding 34 international FEI competitions during their career together. Their most recent win came just last fall in the November, 2016 $34,600 HITS Welcome Stake CSI4* at the HITS Sunshine Series, in Thermal, California.
Owned by Harrie and Mollie Chapman during the entirety of his competition career, Flexible has also had an impact as a breeding stallion, with many offspring on the ground in the United States, Ireland and elsewhere. He will continue his breeding career in retirement, and will live out the rest of his days with Fellers and his wife, rider Shelley Fellers, at their farm in Oregon.
“He’s here with us for the rest of his life,” Fellers confirmed. “We made a deal with Harrie and Mollie, and Shelley and I actually own him now.”
For the horse that has meant everything to Fellers, there is no more bittersweet, but no better deserved future than that.
Flexible will be officially retired just prior to the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar at the Del Mar National Horse Show on May 6, 2017.