Back in 2009 when I had a herd of geriatric native ponies that I’d been showing since a child including my first pony a Fell who was almost 40, a friend persuaded me that I needed to go look at Stretton a racehorse that had just finished its racing career at 10 years old having raced 77 times & won 9 with winnings totalling £104K, that could possibly retain as a show horse. I said I’d just have a look – famous last words – and of cause it was love at first sight. After a lot of retraining (a lot of me hitting the deck – I’d gone from a tractor to a Ferrari) We started showing with the aim of qualifying for HOYS in the RoR class. Whilst he had a the looks and went beautifully in the go around, every time a judge got on him he basically turned into a giraffe! So after being pulled in at the top of the line at the Great Yorkshire out of 40 odd horses to do his usual with the ride judge and then ending up unplaced, I decided that he obviously didn’t like other people riding him & maybe showing wasn’t for him.
I then discovered the world of dressage, where nobody else needed to ride your horse, there was no having to stand still for hours on end, and you got a time did your test and came home, which actually suited my lifestyle much more than hanging around shows all day. Dressage opened a whole new world of training & I had to adapt (and I still am) my own riding drastically, but hopefully for the better. So although busy warm up arena’s were really not the best place to be for us (he always panicked when a horse cantered towards him – that’s not done in racing!) We enjoyed a few years of dressage together, won a few classes up to elementary. Arthritis in hocks & coffin joints took too much of a hold in 2015 decided the retire him whilst he was still sound enough to enjoy the rest of his days out in the field. He’s a horse that certainly doesn’t owe anyone a penny & he’ now 22 years old & still looks amazing, although he is not a good doer & never has been. He has access to as much good grass as he can want, although he’s not got a big appetite. He has a morning feed of ½ Scoop of Alfalfa with 1 stubbs scoop of conditioning cubes. On a lunchtime, he has about 500g of Re-covery mash, which is perfect for mixing bute in as and when he needs it. On an evening he has the same as breakfast – ½ scoop Alflafla & 1 stubbs scoop Conditioning cubes. This diet has worked really well for him, he is very fussy, he really only likes cubes & is always suspicious of anything you give him out of your hand. For me, a horse is for life, so he will see the rest of his days out in the field with me.
The hunt begins for another horse for me to ride……
The hunt began for another horse in 2015, now I’d never actually bought a horse myself (my dad bought my £350 Fell pony back in 1986 – money very well spent!) All my others, I’d just kind of acquired along the way! So I started my search for something quite specific “a mid life crisis horse” in other words – a sporty little number that was young but not green & had the potential to do a bit of everything. After responding to loads of ads and seeing lots of horses, I decided to give it up and leave it to fate, after all, I work with horses & people are always offering me horses, Mr Perfect would find me not the other way around. I’d previously responded to an ad for a gorgeous grey horse that had already sold, but I was doing a gastroscope clinic with a vet practice when I got chatting to a lady who’s name I recognised from the advert for the grey horse, to cut a long story short she had the brother of said horse & was considering selling him. I went to see him & initially thought he was a bit ugly, I remembered what Mr Hester had said at one of our training days about “going with the feel of the horse” as soon as I sat on him I knew he was Mr Perfect!
I purchased Ottawa or Otti to his friends as my sporty little number. He was 6 years old and had evented successfully in the Young horse classes & qualified for the finals, so he’d seen a bit of life, which was good and although I’ve never been into jumping in my life, I decided that at 40+ now was going to be my time! For the first year of owning him, I had lots of training, including a lesson with Brand Ambassadors Spencer Wilton & Hazel Towers. I took him to his first BD competition & won. Yey! Then time to do some cross country schooling (this was before the lesson with Hazel) I went the first time and just popped the small logs. Then the second time, got my brave pants on and followed my friend around the 90cm course, until fence 6 when he got in a bit close and catapulted me off so after that I had a jump lesson with Hazel where she made me get rid of my reins into the fence ahhhh & I then decided that there was a reason I hadn’t jumped for over 20 years & that it wasn’t for me after all! I continued with my dressage & hacking out around the beautiful countryside where we live in North Yorkshire & he also did some modeling work for Saracen! Do you recognise which bag?
After that first year, the honeymoon was over, unfortunately, this is where the A-Z of Veterinary medicine begins… Burst artery in leg, Tendon surgery 8 months box rest, Tyed up, Gastric Ulcers, and finally once all that was sorted out, Arthritis in the hocks which wouldn’t respond to treatment & start of navicular in front feet. The vet said he could probably still hack out, I decided in Sept last year to retire him. Fast forward to March this year & he’s galloping up and down like a loony in the field & also starting to get fat! I’ve just brought him back into very light hacking work. I go with how he feels, sometimes he squeals and has a buck which means he’s up for a canter, sometimes he’s like a snail and I just turn back home. So, for now he’s kind of semi-retiredish. As I said he’s a total opposite to my other horse and he’s a real good doer, so his diet is Shape-Up, I like it because of the acid buff and being low in sugar & starch it suits his gastric ulcers & tying up issues, as well as the Omega 3 fatty acids for his joints. He always gets a handful of chaff before we ride & about 200g of recovery mash made into more of a drink for hot days.
I am now keeping one eye open for my next horse, but again, just going to wait for one to find me!