Paramedic Nicky Heale bought 15hh Welsh section D Retanach Request after suffering a nasty fall.

“I severely broke my right ankle falling off a warmblood — I was lucky to keep my foot,” says Nicky, who is based in Aberdeenshire. “I decided after that I wanted something closer to the ground.”

A friend of Nicky’s had rescued a Welsh section D as his previous home couldn’t handle him on the ground. This was Retanach Request, who was five at the time.

“I couldn’t get anywhere near ‘Rocco’ to start with and I struggled to get on,” explains Nicky, who is a one-horse rider. “But once I was on, that was it — he’s a star. He’s very talented but spooky, and my main job is to contain his ‘worried-ness’.”

Nicky confesses that she considered selling Rocco, who is now 11, on several occasions.

“But every time I posted an advert and someone would come to look at him, I would burst into tears — I just couldn’t do it!”

The 2018 NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships marks Rocco’s fifth consecutive year competing at this event, and he hasn’t let Nicky down, finishing a highly respectable 11th in the Spillers medium freestyle silver class on a score of 67.44%. He was also Xth in the Petplan Equine prix st Georges bronze area final, making the two-day journey to Hartpury worthwhile.

“He’s taught me a lot as if you don’t press the right buttons, he won’t do what you’re asking,” says Nicky. “He piaffes very well and I hope to take him to grand prix.”

For a full report from the British Dressage Winter Championships and Area Festival final – as well as news, views and expert comment – don’t miss Thursday’s (19 April) issue of Horse & Hound