Some of our keener-eyed readers may have spotted the quiet and unassuming news snippet in Horse and Hound last week, announcing that the showjumping stallion Hamilton Tropics has retired from competition and headed off to the south of France for a quieter life in the sun, away from his lifelong home at the Lights’ Brendon Stud. Few, however, will know the circumstances for his retirement, or the flurry of activity that resulted in him heading off to live the life of Reilly, so, after catching her breath from the whirlwind last few days, Shirley Light agreed to explain a little more about this special horse, and his new owner Martin Sheach managed to stop polishing his new yard resident just long enough to give me his story.
Hamilton Tropics is known to all his friends as ‘Kouros’, as Brendon Stud chooses a different topic each year for naming foals, and 1998 was the year for perfumes and aftershaves. Standing a majestic and gloriously chestnut 17.2hh, he was sired by Hamilton III, whom Cyril Light bought as a 2 year old, and who competed up to grade A / 1.40m until retiring to stud once it was clear that combining competing with stud duties made for an ‘eventful’ mix. Kouros’ dam Katie [officially Tropicana] was also bred at Brendon Stud by Tropic Star, another colt that Brendon Stud had bought as a 2 year old and competed up to grade A. Katie was out of Annabelle, another home-bred, out of one of Brendon’s first ever brood mares Quick Que, by Arctic Que; Katie was also the dam of Mistabit, Lady Tropics, Charleston Esquire and Special To Me, the latter 3 of which have all competed BSJA. Lady Tropics has since had one foal, and Charleston Esquire was sold to Holland, leaving one progeny stallion in the UK in Greenbank Harlequin.
Above: Hamilton III, sire of Hamilton Tropics
ridden by Michael Joyce at Towerlands
Special To Me (‘Kourtney’) competed until she started breeding and she is the mother of Sussex Caretino (‘Klarins’) who is currently performing extremely successfully under saddle. For those spotting the recurring initial ‘K’, Brendon Stud like to continue using the initial of a homebred’s stable name from its dam.
Shirley Light, Brendon Stud’s manager, was the one to pull Kouros into the world late in the evening of 26th March 1998. His dam Katie was only 15.1hh, so Kouros was a big push for her, even though his sire was a very reasonable 16.2hh. For all his huge size, Shirley describes him as being “one of the most timid foals I have ever had.” Sadly, Katie only had one more foal after Kouros, which is Kourtney, and she ruptured badly and died; the hunt to find a foster mare over the Easter holidays was luckily successful, but nevertheless gave rise to Kourtney’s proper name Special To Me. Shirley went on to say that “as a weanling and yearling, Kouros actually had to winter by himself as he refused point blank to share his feed! He still dearly loves his grub now! In the field, however, he was always the gentle giant he is now.”
Having a keen eye for spotting talent at an early age, Shirley saw that Kouros had fantastic technique over a fence as a youngster, demonstrating carefulness and bravery – indeed, it was only much later that the Lights discovered quite how brave he actually is.
Licensed with the AES as a 4 year old, Kouros then returned as a 5 year old in November 2003 where he was awarded Full Approval. This is when he suffered a freak accident whilst being trotted up on a bit of tarmac. As Guy Williams gently brought him back to a walk, Kouros slipped and lost his footing, ending up on his belly, completely spread-eagled on the ground.
Above: Kouros loose jumping as a 3 year old
Scrabbling desperately to stand, Kouros went for about 20 yards like this until he heard Shirley frantically telling him to stop, at which point he then sat and stayed like a dog, now only inches from numerous parked cars. He stayed quietly down while Shirley and helpers rushed to put vetwrap round his feet for grip and numerous rugs under him (from the other waiting stallions) and then he was helped up.
Shirley says “I have never before nor since seen anything so frightening - I really thought he’d broken numerous legs. His front legs had also been ripped wide open as he was crawling and he was bleeding on all four legs - fetlocks, knees, hocks and a big gash on his near hind stifle. The haematomas started coming up immediately between his front legs, across his belly and all over his legs. We had the vet make him comfortable and took him home to recover.”
Left: Kouros competing at Lanaken with Guy Williams
Right: Kouros competing at Towerlands, again with
The swellings apparently took several weeks to go down but he was never actually lame, so was kept in light work to help with the swelling, but after a couple of shows in January 2004 he was clearly still sore and had a few haematomas left, so it was decided to give him 6 months in the field, coming back to competition later that year. With hindsight, Shirley now realises that this accident was when he first damaged the meniscus ligament in his near hind that was to prove the primary factor in curtailing his career, but because he was such a brave and stoical sort, says Shirley, “he never told us.”
As a young horse, Kouros was competed by Joe Clee and Guy Williams, and Guy won at Hickstead and Lanaken on him as a 5 year old.
Kouros continued winning and in 2006, Damien Charles (Peter Charles’ nephew) took over the ride, as Guy was away competing abroad a lot more.
Kouros’ most prolific achievement was coming 4th in the Hickstead Derby in 2007, ridden by Damien. (Photo right).