9 horses Sam Griffiths won’t forget
1. Happy Times (stablename: Happy)
Owners: Dinah Posford and Juliet Donald Best results: first Saumur 2008; third Badminton and Burghley 2009; first Belton and Chatsworth 2010; Australian team member Kentucky World Equestrian Games (WEG) 2010; fourth Badminton 2011; Australian team member London 2012 Olympics; ninth Burghley 2012; third Burghley 2014 Sam says: “Happy is an out and out star — he can do things other horses can’t do, because he’s got that much talent about him, but he’s also quite quirky.
“He’s very difficult in the showjumping. He’s quite scared of the poles and won’t walk over a pole on ground, he always jumps it. I use a lot of polework in training, so it makes him difficult to train.
“Across country you think you’re in all sorts of trouble and Happy can get you out like no other horse I’ve ever ridden, so he’s quite freaky like that. He knows he’s a star. Whenever a camera turns up, he just poses for it.”
2. Paulank Brockagh (stablename: Brocks)
Owners: Dinah and Stephen Posford and Jules Carter Best results: first Badminton 2014; Australian team member Caen WEG 2014; 10th Badminton 2015; ninth Burghley 2015 Sam says: “Brocks is an amazing jumper — you can really believe if you pointed her at a house she’d try to jump it for you.
“Her strength is that she tries harder than any other horse I’ve ever had. She’s not a natural on flat, but she keeps trying and trying and getting better and better for it.
“What more can I say about Brocks? She’s won the biggest event in the world and that in its own right makes here a star.”
3. Connigar Bay (stablename: Connie)
Owners: Jim Chromiak and Penelope Makin Best results: 15th Burghley 2005; eighth Burghley 2006; 11th Burghley 2007 Sam says: “Connie was an absolute gentleman of a horse and super cross-country. He used to get a little bit hot in dressage, but he’s a horse I look back on and wish I had today — with my increased experience I could have done more with him. But I’m sure everyone is like that — you develop as a rider the more you do and understand.
“Everyone liked Connie. He was a super horse, really fast and reliable.”
4. Jovial Sam (stablename: Sam)
Owners: Sharon Alston (at the time Sam rode him) Best results: 34th Badminton 1998 Sam says: “Sam was my first four-star ride and I got him as a catch ride initially. I picked him up about a week before Blenheim, because his usual rider Victoria Sinnatt couldn’t compete him there, and the first cross-country fence I jumped on him was number one at Blenheim. I just clicked with him.
“I then took him on to Badminton after only a couple of intermediates, so that was my fourth or fifth event on him.
“He was only a little horse, but he was really talented and brave as anything. He had had a hard career as a racehorse and had a few soundness issues — if you over galloped him he would become sore, so we had to manage him in a particular way and find other ways to get him fit.
“We did a lot of swimming with him. Luckily at that time I was based not far from Lambourn, so we went to [Grand National-winning trainer] Oliver Sherwood’s and swam him there.”
5. Private Colin (stablename: Colin)
Owner: David Hamilton and Miss L Patel (at the time Sam rode him) Best results: third Le Lion d’Angers seven-year-old World Cchampionships 2001; sixth Badminton 2004 Sam says: “He was an interesting horse because he was bred by the Fletchers and came into my yard because he used to keep napping with other jockeys. I acquired him to try to sort him out as part of a deal, but because he jumped so well I pulled a syndicate together to buy him and took him from nothing right through to fifth/sixth at Badminton.
“I felt Colin should have been selected for the Athens Olympics — his worst three-day performance in the run-up was seventh.
“I did have to ride the roads and tracks holding onto the breastplate though, because I worried he’d spin and I’d fall off. We never really got that out of him, so that was the most nerve-racking part of any competition.
“He was a super, super jumper, which is why he went so well at three-days — his jumping really came to fore.”
6. Chamois IV (stablename: Chammy)
Owner: Fiona Dowding Best results: 34th Badminton 2004 Sam says: “Chammy was one of my first rides in the UK. I was based in a yard with Matt Ryan and her owner Fiona had her on the same yard. She couldn’t compete her because she was busy being a mother, so she asked me if I’d take her on.
“She wasn’t a very good jumper initially, but really improved her technique with experience. She was a mare who had a massive heart and I ended up doing Badminton on her. Although she was only 15.3hh, she was a super cross-country horse. No one thought she’d make it but she did.
“My big memory of Chammy is cantering through the finish at Badminton after going clear and seeing her owner in floods of tears. I wondered what I’d done wrong, but she was just happy it had gone so well. We’re still friends today.
“After Badminton, Fiona retired her to breed from her and I was a bit gutted as I felt she had a few more four-stars in her! I’ve ridden some of her offspring, including Outward Bound who I currently compete at two-star.”
7. In The Groove (stablename: Groover)
Owners: Dinah Posford Best results: seventh Lulworth CIC3* 2002; 18th Boekelo 2002; 19th Pau World Cup Final 2003 Sam says: “Groover was the first horse I ever rode for anyone else in the UK and he’s still my favourite horse. He was an absolute gentleman and so reliable.
“He wasn’t a superstar — I remember doing one showjumping round and the owners counted how many fences he touched and it was 11 or 13, but he still managed to go clear!
“He was such a beautiful horse to have around and do everything with, and was everyone else’s favourite too.”
8. Favorit Z (stablename: Frodo)
Owners: Sue Brendish Best results: fifth Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CIC3* 2014 Sam says: “Frodo was going to be my Rio Olympic gold medallist, but he died last year in a freak accident.
“He was stunning looking — I could do a bad dressage test on him and still win because he was so good. He wanted to be careful, too.
“I was devastated to lose him because to me he was a real gold medal horse, but also because everyone in the yard had a soft spot for him — he was such a good-looking horse and a nice guy to have around.
“I felt that on him I could have challenged and beaten Michael Jung and all the other top riders. I had really taken my time with him and he was just coming to the fore of his career. I thought he would have been perfect for Rio, but life can be cruel and that was one of those situations.”
9. Danaan Prince (stablename: DP)
Owners: Sue Brendish Best results: 13th Houghton CIC3* 2010; 15th Boekelo 2010; 18th Saumur 2011 Sam says: “I always called DP the most expensive event horse. He was from the first crop of Danehill Dancer, but by the time DP started eventing, Danehill Dancer was a leading sire in the thoroughbred world and commanding a huge stud fee.
“DP raced a lot as a two-year-old trained by Richard Hannon, but the owner was worried about him being injured and loved him so much she decided to find him another career. She thought he could do dressage, but Jennie Loriston-Clarke thought he was more suited to eventing and recommended me.
“I watched his 10 races and every time he was in a position to win, he didn’t seem to give it his all and quite run to his full potential. But he loved eventing and tried hard — it just shows that some horses are suited to one sport and others to another.
“He was about to do Burghley when his fiery chestnut temperament got the better of him and he injured himself. As he had raced so much, I felt it would be pushing him to keep him at four-star, so he went off to do a bit of dressage.”