Happy Birthday: Dressage Superstar Bonfire Begins His 25th Year

A basket of fruit for the aged dressage super-hero, Anky’s Bonfire.

Many arguments can be made for the leading senior citizen of the horse world. In Great Britain, there is even a Veteran Horse Society that promotes the health and welfare of the “senior” horse and rewards the efforts of those who continue to compete with older horses. In Kentucky, the “Old Friends” retirement home warehouses elders of the racing world whose stud or racing careers are over, but who live on in the hearts of their fans.

In the sport horse world, one horse, personifies the electric charge that overcame the sport of dressage in the 1990s and transformed it into an exciting spectator sport. No longer would people say that watching dressage was like “watching paint dry”. Not with a horse like Bonfire in the ring.

Bonfire was the horse who carried Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven to super-star status. For years, they battled tooth-and-nail against the technically-perfect Germans. Always crowd favorites, Bonfire and Anky infused the sport with risky, expressive performances that dropped many a jaw and elicited worldwide wows.

Together, Anky and Bonfire won the World Cup five times. According to her web site, they have shared an Olympic Gold Medal?and three Olympic Silver Medals. They won the World Championship, the European Championship and were National Champions of the Netherlands eight times.

Today, Bonfire is retired at Anky’s training center. He turned 25 a few days ago and was rewarded with a basket of fruit from a Dutch charity that uses the Oldenburg gelding as their poster boy. The charity provides a retirement home for old riding school horses to prevent them from being slaughtered.

Speaking at the Fourth International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in Palm Beach, Florida last fall, Anky’s farrier Rob Renirie included senior horses in his four-part master class on sport horse farriery. When it came time to talk about the retired athletes, Rob proudly drew on the example of his old friend Bonfire, who has retired to life as a sound, healthy pensioner.

Bonfire has his own page on Anky’s web site. He is the first horse among all those featured–obviously always at the top of her list!

All horses should have it so good. Bonfire certainly has earned his place in the paddock. Long may he graze.

Among Bonfire’s routines are solarium sessions.




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