Prince Charles is opening up about the emotional moment he cradled his first race horse as it faded in front of his eyes after it collapsed when they were out training.
Charles, 69, was warned to get off Allibar before he died, he recalls of the 1981 incident.
In a new interview, the prince told ITV racing presenter Brough Scott how he felt Allibar slow down while they were riding. “He crashed onto the ground. I held his head while the life drained out of it. I couldn’t bear it because you see the life going out of his eyes,” Charles said. “It nearly finished me. I’ve never had that happen.”
His most famous outing on Allibar had been the previous year at Ludlow racecourse in October 1980, as his soon-to-be wife Lady Diana Spencer and ex-girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles watched from the sidelines.
“It was very exciting and I remember fantastic butterflies,” Charles said of the race in which he came second after leading for the first lap. “I had no idea what I was doing!”
He had taken up racing for the first time – at the relatively-late age of 31 – because “I wanted to understand what it was like from a jockey’s perspective,” he said. “You have no idea until you do it what incredibly hard work it is.”
So he entered training, going running and bicycling without the seat – so he couldn’t sit down.
Charles spoke to U.K. TV station ITV ahead of a charity day at the Ascot race meeting on November 24, which will see his Prince’s Countryside Fund benefit. The charity was set up in 2010 to help secure a brighter future for British farmers. It provides up to $1.6 million in grants to projects across Britain each year.
The royal’s passion for racing continues as Charle and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, 70, own some racehorses. Their horse Carntop is training for racing over fences.
“Carntop is going to go jumping,” Camilla told the interviewer. “We have every intention of winning the Gold cup now. The dream lives on.”
“Ah, those dreams!” the prince adds.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.