Farewell Figaro

Posted by By at 28 October, at 21 : 20 PM Print

Figaro IX, former ride of British Para rider Deb Criddle, has been put to sleep at the age of 25. His owner, Nina Venables, made the hardest decision and said goodbye to her much loved horse on Friday 14 October 2016.

Eminent Grade III rider Deb formed one of the most formidable Para Dressage partnerships of all time with the Baron B gelding, winning Individual, Freestyle and Team Gold at the 2002 European Championships, the 2003 World Championships and the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. These incredible achievements earned them a place in the history books as the first ever combination to win a Gold treble at all three championships.

Deb_Criddle_and_FigaroWhen Nina bought Figaro as a rising five-year-old from Richard Ewing in Sussex, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine he’d achieve so much in his life. “He wasn’t very expensive and he came with no expectations,” says Nina who brought the attractive bay through the levels to Small Tour, on the way achieving a second place in the Elementary at the National Championships.

The next chapter for ‘Figs’ began in the year 2000. Nina met Deb Criddle through the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) at their National Championships. Soon after, Deb approached Nina for training in the run-up to the Sydney Paralympic Games. “Then Deb’s own horse was out of action for a while, so instead of cancelling, I offered her lessons on Figaro,” said Nina “And as borrowed horses were used at the Paralympics back then, we thought it’d be helpful for her to ride something else.”

And so the partnership was born, and it couldn’t have come at a better time as riders began to compete their own horses at championships. Deb and Figaro reigned supreme notching up success after success on the world stage. “He absolutely adored being part of the team,” remembered Nina. ”He loved Deb, he loved competing, and he loved the attention he got from the whole team. One of my most memorable memories was watching them in Athens doing their lap of honour. Deb rested the reins at the base of his neck and waved to the crowd, Figaro staying in a beautiful shape as they ‘gave it large’, hands free around the stadium. They had complete trust in each other as they enjoyed the moment. I was so proud!”

“Figaro had the most gentle, kind face with beautiful, smiling eyes. He had lovely big ears and was very expressive. I knew exactly what he was feeling,” described Nina, who credits Figaro with the beginning of her involvement with the World Class Programme. Nina is currently the Para-Equestrian Dressage Podium Potential Coach.

“He was lovely to hack, lovely to canter through the woods and I used to teach off him at Pony Club. He was adored by everyone including my seven-year-old son.”

Figaro is now at the farm where he lived for 20 years. “He’s in a beautiful spot between two oak trees, buried with a memory box.”

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