The start of the New Year brings unlimited possibilities for us all. I like to plan ahead and document aims and goals to achieve. Retraining a just-turned 12-year-old (The Giant Bolster, aka Sammy) brings many challenges, and sometimes progress can seem slow.

I think writing lists of achievable goals can really help. As they are marked off one by one, I am able to realise how far we have come in such a short space of time and not lose sight of an end achievement.

I have started to look for clinics where Sammy can get used to working and staying concentrated around other horses. I have contacted my local Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) region to book into some clinics. Clare Poole is the Midlands secretary, and she was very helpful and friendly. She is also lucky to have a new ride of her own, last year’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) winner, Jack The Giant.

I am so pleased how contented Sammy seems to be. I really feel he is very happy in his new life which is great otherwise I would not be able to continue with his training. His favourite past time as always is still digging holes in his paddock, leaving it looking like a lunar landscape. I have put him in a turnout hood to make grooming easier… I’m trying to tame the mud monster.

Sammy the mud monster

We have had an exciting outing. I booked into a Showing Register clinic quite a while before Christmas, hoping we would be ready or maybe just wing it. The clinic was held at Solihull Riding Club and instructed by show producer and ride judge Sarah Chapman.

On arrival, Sammy was quite excited so I led him to the indoor school to mount somewhere safe. I was greeted by Sarah who was very friendly and instantly put all of the group at ease. It was a freezing cold morning so Sarah sensibly got us all warmed up before making our introductions to the group. The horses all varied in type; riding horses, coloureds and veterans, Sammy being the only ex-racehorse.

With our group (second from right) at the clinic

Riding around the school I could not have been more proud. Sammy walked, trotted and cantered in a group as he would in a show ring and behaved perfectly. Sarah also gave us some exercises to do specific to the needs of our horses which was helpful.

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I was feeling so confident with Sammy that when Sarah offered to “ride judge” our horses, I put Sammy forward. Again what a star pupil he was! Sarah loved him and said: “I could ride him all day”. High praise indeed and just what you need to hear from a judge. Sarah rode him beautifully and it was a perfect first introduction to being judge ridden. We ended the session with turn out and in-hand advice. We still need to work on straightening and strengthening Sammy’s weak side but I feel that will come.

Sammy trying hard at the clinic

I have also been contacted asking for The Giant Bolster to join the prestigious retrained racehorse parade at Cheltenham Festival in March. It is a real honour and I will very much look forward to taking part. It will also be lovely for his fantastically supportive and devoted owner Simon Hunt to see him walk round the paddock at Cheltenham for the eighth festival in succession.

Lucy