Madonna's Moon Man Lost to Colic: Fox-Pitt's Champion Horse Competed in USA, Lesson Horse for Star

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The globe-galloping champion: Moon Man, 1990-2008

World-leading three-day event rider William Fox-Pitt announced today that Moon Man, one of his top mounts, was euthanized on Tuesday following a colic exploratory surgery that revealed an intestinal condition known as a fatty lipoma.

Here's a quote from Fox-Pitt on the Horse and Hound web site, where you can read more details:

"There was nothing vets could do to help him. He had a lipoma [a fatty tumor that causes intestinal strangulation] which compromised a large ? 34ft long ? section of his gut. We were told it was a time bomb waiting to go off.

"We are all left feeling very sad, and very empty. Undoubtedly he was the horse of a lifetime for me ? and for all of us. Jacky [head groom for William] has looked after him since he came to us as a 5-year-old.

"He's a horse who's been there and done everything. He was a very special horse to have about ? anyone could ride him, my two little boys even sat on him. He was happy hunting, hacking, jumping ? anything.

"He even won the pairs class at Bramham this year so was still enjoying his retirement.

"It is a great shame not to have had him longer, he was still on top form and enjoying life."

The gallant Moon Man was known around the barn as just "Bob".

Moon Man is one of those horses who, like the late great Theodore O'Connor, defied odds and had colorful twists and turns in his life. He was a journalist's joy, just as he was surely an outstanding horse who repeatedly carried Fox-Pitt toward his current domination in the sport.

Moon Man's life began in Ireland, where a British sport horse dealer spotted him at a trekking center, where he was destined to spend his life carrying tourists across the Irish countryside.

Among his many accomplishments was a third-place finish at the Rolex (KY) Three-Day Event in 2003, where he also won the award for the best-conditioned horse.

Moon Man's ten-year career included two reigns as British eventing champion, a win of the British Open at Gatcombe, and an amazingly consistent list of placings and completions at many of the world's three- and four-star CCI events, including the Gold in the European Championships in 2003.

In 2005, Moon Man retired from eventing but continued to be a useful horse for Fox-Pitt and his family.

Oddly, however, it was one of Fox-Pitt's students who helped make Moon Man a legend on another level. When pop diva Madonna decided to take up eventing, she went straight to Fox-Pitt and made him her trainer. When he put her on Moon Man, she reportedly fell in love with the horse and wanted to cast him in her next music video. Or buy him!

It was not Moon Man that Madonna was riding when she took her famous tumble; that day she was riding an ex-polo pony, one of six horses allegedly given to her to choose from as a gift by recently-discarded ex-husband Guy Richey. She settled on a nice Welsh Cob, while taking lessons on Moon Man and having Fox-Pitt design a jumping course on the grounds of her estate.

Groom Jacky paid the horse this fine tribute: "He came to us as a gawky five-year-old from an Irish trekking center and over the years was British National Champion twice, amongst other numerous wins. He carried novices and professionals alike, always able to adjust to suit the rider's abilities. Not only was he a great horse but also a friend and privilege and a pleasure to ride and handle. He will be sorely missed by all as he was just 'Bob'."

To learn more:Click here to see photos of intestinal lipoma;lipoma strangulation is the single most frequent cause of small intestinal strangulation in the University of Liverpool Equine Hospital in England. The page is from the hospital's web site dedicated to equine colic.

Thanks to Horse and Hound, Fox-Pitt Eventing, and the University of Liverpool for help with this article. I am sure that Madonna will return my call tomorrow.

Madonna must be a lot of fun to have around the barn. She did a 58-page fashion spread on an equestrian theme for W Magazine two years ago.