FEW PEOPLE are still riding horses in their 80th year, let alone breaking and schooling strong youngsters and galloping full tilt round the ring victorious at leading horse shows. But this was Roy Trigg's life and joy and he pursued it to the end, dying 'in harness' at the National Light Horse Championships held at Malvern last Saturday.
Clad in his familiar bowler (which he always swapped for his broad-brimmed brown felt hat when not mounted), old-fashioned breeches and boots and tweed jacket, Trigg's first success of that day came when he won the Jack Gittins Trophy for the best novice hunter with the Flat trainer John Dunlop's big heavyweight horse Red Hand. He was overjoyed, for Gittins (who died while riding a four-year-old in 1977) had been one of his best friends and the trophy presented in his memory by another of the great showing families, Daphne Toulson and her father, was one he coveted most.
Later, still riding Red Hand, he won the reserve ridden championship of the show, a great triumph on a five-year-old horse. As Trigg left the ring he remarked to Jeff Osborne, the rider of the champion who competes under his Osborne Refrigeration banner, 'I'm not sure I'll be doing this much longer.' Still carrying the bridle in the stable area, he collapsed and died.
Always quiet and dignified, Trigg developed a rapport with horses and people alike. He was one of the last great nagsmen, a professional horseman who by his skill rides to improve a horse. He showed horses for 70 seasons, starting as a small boy at shows such as Olympia and Richmond and graduating via the Royal International at the White City and Horse of the Year Show at Harringay.
One of his great moments came in 1991, when he won Cob of the Year at Wembley with John Dunlop's spritely horse Just William and then retired him: dismounting, crossing the stirrups over the saddle and leading him from the ring - a moving experience. In all his many successes in recent years Trigg was supported by his second wife Annette, first showing horses from Trigg's farm stable in Cowfold, and more recently from their home in Wisborough Green, both in Sussex.
Although he was one of the greatest showmen of his time - showing horses before a panel of judges, where the rider can greatly influence the horse's performance - this was not Trigg's main occupation in the early part of his life. His main job was breaking in high-class young horses, for which he soon developed such a brilliant reputation that the Queen Mother, the leading trainer Ryan Price, Guy Harwood and more recently John Dunlop all sent him valuable horses to be broken. As time went on he concentrated more on showing, riding many of Lady Zinnia Judd's horses including the famous heavyweight hunter Plenty of Time, Half Midnight, a middleweight, and the cob Justin Time. He won numerous top awards with John Dunlop's horses.
As a small boy Trigg was not an immediate success as a horseman, being somewhat timid. Fortunately he was rather more frightened of his father, Robert, a horse dealer, farmer and greengrocer, than he was of some of the very naughty ponies he was expected to ride. By the time he was 13 he was enjoying riding in point-to-points, of which he won over a hundred in the following 30 years.
Roy Trigg leaves two children, Gerry Trigg and Susan Gibson, and three stepchildren. He passed the love of riding and speed on to his stepson Guy Landau who rode working hunter ponies very successfully as a child, in 1987 going on to finish third in the Grand National and winning the Whitbread Gold Cup before settling in France as a jockey.
'Roy loved helping young people,' said Vin Toulson of Melton Mowbray, another of the great riders on the showing circuit, 'He was a brave man with terrific nerve.'Reuse content