Prolific Scottish Five-Star Competitor King Eider Dies at 22

King Eider. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re sad to report that King Eider (Toulon x Pearle, by Capital), one of Scotland’s best-loved five-star horses, has died of cancer at the age of 22.

“So sad to say that we said goodbye to the amazing King Eider last week, he got a cancer that affected some of his nerves,” writes rider and owner Louisa Milne Home in a heartfelt statement on her social media channels. “We have had so much fun, from his arrival with us as a four-year-old, all the way through to the very end, he ruled the yard with a lovely but very big personality.”

Louise produced King Eider, or ‘Duck’, as he was known at home, through his competitive career, lodging 33 FEI and ten CCI5* starts along the way. The oversized Belgian Warmblood was a popular entry at Badminton and Burghley, where he amassed plenty of fans with his game, bold jumping style and his tight-knit partnership with Louise, which helped them pick up several top-3 finishes in these most prestigious competitions.

“I can’t begin to list all the amazing things that we did together. He competed at 10 5*s, was in the top 3 at 4*s, won at Advanced and Intermediate. We were longlisted for the Europeans, but very sadly he got an injury just before it,” continues Louisa. “He did a very smart test and he was just a fantastic jumper, he loved all his 5* competitions. He had no TB blood and just showed that eventers come in all shapes and sizes. In 2013 he was one of only 12 horses to jump clear round both Badminton and Burghley. He loved a crowd and so Badminton and Burghley where his favourite events, he would spend most of the course checking out the crowds and looking for cameras!”

Like many top-level competitors, Duck wasn’t always the most straightforward ride — but that was largely down to his famous sense of humour, which kept Louisa on her toes ahead of major competitions.

“He had a very cheeky side and we always had to practice skinnies before any event or he would think it was very funny to show me up,” she writes.

Though Duck was diagnosed with a heart condition back in 2013, careful management ensured that it never caused an issue with his competitive endeavours, and he competed at the top level until he was nineteen years old. His retirement in 2019 saw him bow out after Badminton, looking as fit and well as he ever had.

“Just before our first Badminton he got an atrial fibrillation, which the Edinburgh Vet School managed to correct and luckily it never went wrong again, until just after he stopped competing, but it never caused him any problems to just have fun at home,” writes Louisa. Her one regret? A non-completion at Burghley in 2017 for the 17.1hh gelding, who jumped a stylish clear across the country but picked up an injury. “It was really sad that he didn’t complete his 5th Burghley, he jumped a fantastic clear cross country but wasn’t sound that evening, having tweaked a leg, I think having pecked coming out of the Trout Hatchery.”

Bred in Belgium and originally named Quattro Van De Kwakkelhoek, Duck could have gone down a variety of career paths — and indeed, several of his full siblings have enjoyed considerable success in the showjumping ring in Europe and the USA. But despite clocking in at just 32% blood, Duck was made for the rigours of five-star cross-country.

“He was always good but it wasn’t until he was 9 and he jumped clear round his first Advanced at Eglinton, then went to Blair for 4*s and jumped double clear followed by a clear round Blenheim 8/9 yr old 4*s, that he really started to show what he could do, up till then he was mostly stepping over things! It was always difficult to find a jump he didn’t make look small,” says Louisa, who also recently lost her top show jumper, Harry DV. “I was so lucky to have had him and Harry and I can’t believe both have gone in such quick succession they made so many things possible and feel so easy.”

The EN team send our most heartfelt condolences to Louisa and everyone connected with this super horse.