A rescue horse who almost died from starvation three years ago has qualified for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in October.

At the SEIB Search for a Star qualifier at Bury Farm earlier this month (14 July), Cheryl Moore’s Connemara/thoroughbred George Gently secured a HOYS qualifying ticket in the hack/riding horse division under his rider Anthony Nicholas.

When Cheryl rescued seven-year-old ‘George’ in September 2014, he was severely malnourished.

“Her vet said that if he had been left in that condition for a further two weeks he would have died,” said Anthony. “It breaks my heart to even think about that because he is so loving and appreciative of everything you do for him.

“Although George was four years old, Cheryl’s farrier said he still had ‘foal feet’ because of his condition. He reckoned she would be very lucky if she ever got to ride him, but this didn’t stop George. He has a heart of gold and wasn’t going to let his past affect his future.

“His little foal feet turned into solid hooves, giving him the opportunity to turn his hoof to anything.”

Cheshire-based Anthony took on the ride on George two years ago.

“I met Cheryl through a mutual friend in 2015, and she suggested I might like to take George for a hack. She then asked if I would help her out with schooling him occasionally,” he said.

“I saw he had huge potential to be a lovely show horse, and as Cheryl and I became good friends, the partnership between me and George just went from strength to strength.

“It’s been a dream of mine to ride at HOYS since I first went when I was nine to watch, but I never thought it would happen. This is a wonderful series – we were delighted to be third at the qualifier at Osbaldeston in April and the knowledge, support and confidence that the judges gave me on that day made me realise I was on a horse that could maybe get the golden ticket with a bit more work.

“In addition to his excellent showing potential, we also discovered he has a fantastic jump and therefore Cheryl began showjumping him. He is now registered with British Showjumping and competes locally in British novice and discovery, qualifying for the Scope Festival this year.”

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George also has a cheeky side, according to Anthony.

“Not a day goes by when he doesn’t have me and Cheryl in stitches,” he added. “He does so many funny things – for example when you give him his bucket of food, he throws it across the stable then spends hours hoovering each little bit up off the floor.

“He’s also constantly trying to eat the plants from the hanging baskets outside the stables, and he likes to open car doors with his mouth and then look at you as if to say, ‘It wasn’t me’.

“He loves sticking his head out of the window on the way home from a show and mess with his muzzle as the wind blows in his face!”