After an emotional farewell to competition, Nick Skelton paid tribute to his two-time Olympic gold medal winning horse.
The 59-year-old became Team GB’s second oldest Olympic champion in history when he won showjumping gold at Rio 2016, atop Big Star.
Four years earlier, at London 2012, he won team showjumping gold alongside Scott Brash, Peter Charles and Ben Maher – again riding Big Star.
However, with the stallion reaching the end of his career, Skelton also decided to call time on his competitive riding duties and bid farewell to the sport at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
Riding through a guard of honour, Skelton entered a packed Castle Arena before dismounting and replacing his Great Britain jacket with ordinary riding wear, as Big Star’s saddle and Team GB cloth were also removed.
Skelton’s former colleagues John and Michael Whitaker, as well as Brash, then entered the arena to join the retiring champion on a victory lap around the arena.
When he dismounted for the final time and spoke to the crowd, there was only one thing on his mind – his trusted mount.
"From the day we bought Big Star when he was five-years-old, I had it in my mind that he could win an Olympic gold medal," Skelton said.
"He has been an outstanding horse, and he has never let me down. I have an amazing team around me, and I have been very lucky all my life.
"I've had the most wonderful horses, great owners and great sponsors, and I am very proud of what I have done.
"I would do it all again if I could."
Skelton’s success in Rio came in the most dramatic of circumstances as he won in a jump-off to claim gold ahead of Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Canada’s Eric Lamaze.
But for Skelton, a four-time European team jumping champion, he always had confidence that Big Star would rise to the occasion.
"I thought going to Rio with Big Star, if I was lucky enough to get there, I was sitting on the best horse - there was no doubt about that," he added.
"To me, I was at an advantage. I completely trusted that horse.
"He is just so intelligent, allied with tremendous ability. He jumped those courses in Rio like they were 1.30m courses. It is an amazing feeling being sat on a horse like him."