Colombian dressage rider Maria Aponte has lost her number one Grand Prix horse, Duke de Niro. The gelding died suddenly of a suspected heart attack on 23 March 2023.
Duke de Niro was a 19-year old British Hanoverian bred gelding by De Niro out of Walpurgis (by Weltmeyer). He was bred by E-M. Kirby.
He first came to prominence under British Rosie Moreton-Deakin, who began competing him in 2012 at age 8.
Moreton-Deakin showed the gelding up to Prix St Georges level until the autumn of 2015.
Equestricons Duke de Niro
The horse was scouted by German horse dealer Jochen Arl for his junior rider daughter Antonia, who made the transition from juniors to young riders with Duke de Niro.
Antonia and "Equestricons Duke de Niro" made their international show debut at the 2016 CDI Compiègne at young riders level, while a month later they rode at junior level at the CDI Hagen "Future Champions" and then went back to YR level soon after.
They campaigned at Lamprechtshausen, Darmstadt, Le Mans and Paris that year. They were fifth at the 2016 Belgian Young Riders Championships.
In 2017 Antonia travelled to the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, and competed Duke in two CDI's, riding six classes and winning three of them. They finished the spring season with two CDI's in France: Saumur and Pompadour. In the autumn of 2017 Antonia made the decision to quit competitive riding and focus on school.
Duke de Niro was sold to Colombian Maria Aponte Gonzalez.
The new duo premiered at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington in January 2019 and first competed at small tour level. After a tumultuous Colombian team selection process, Maria and Duke were picked for the team for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The Colombian team finished fifth tere and Maria was 13th in the Intermediaire I with 65.971%.
In 2020 Maria moved up to Under 25 Grand Prix level for one season in Wellington, while in 2021 she stepped into the senior Grand Prix division with him. Maria trained with Arlene "Tuny" Page at the time.
In 2022 she moved to Germany and worked out of Hof Kasselmann. The pair finished their career together at the 2022 World Championships in Herning, where they were 80th with 65.171%.
Herning turned out to be the combination's last international.
Aponte had recently moved to Jordi Domingo's yard in Spain and tragically heard about the loss of her horse two days ago. Duke died in his stall of a suspected cardiac arrest.
"He was a horse of a lifetime and I am immensely grateful that I got to ride him these past eight years," the 26-year old Aponte stated. "Duke was the best dance partner anyone could’ve asked for and I will always cherish so many amazing memories together. You took me on a journey one could only dream of. From young riders, Pam Ams, U25, to our first senior GP and all the way to the World Championship. I can only say thank you for everything that you taught me. When I look back at our journey I see more than just accomplishments, I see a horse with a huge heart."
Photos © Astrid Appels
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