A JA showjumping pony has returned to winning form after defying “non-existent” odds to recover from a septic tendon sheath.

Fourteen-year-old Hally IV came in from the field in February last year with a swollen leg, and vets initially suspected a fracture.

“She wasn’t lame but the next morning she was on her toe and non-weight-bearing,” explained Hally’s owner Sue Brown, who bought the thoroughbred-Connemara cross two years ago for her son Harry to jump.

“Our vet put her on intravenous antibiotics anyway, just to take a ‘belt and braces’ approach, and I think that’s partly what saved her.”

After tapping the tendon sheath “just to exclude it”, the infection was discovered, and the mare was taken to Western Counties veterinary hospital.

“It was flushed, she came home and then she went lame again, so she went back in. That time, they discovered a 3mm piece of blackthorn had worked its way in under her fetlock near the ergot — there’s no way the vets could have spotted the wound.

“They managed to flush it out but she then had to go back and have it flushed a third time. At that point the odds of her returning to soundness had gone from 60% after a single flush to non-existent after three,” Sue said.

Just before Easter last year the pony’s prospects of recovery looked bleak and Sue had to make a decision whether or not to put her to sleep.

“I said, ‘we can always put her down tomorrow if she’s not any better’ and then in three days she was almost sound,” Sue said.

The road to full recovery was long; Hally spent a full 12 months on box rest, walking in hand and later under saddle.

“My son was only 10 at the time and we had to go through weaning her off the bute and antibiotics hoping she’d be OK — the vet said she needed to be off them for a month to check she had recovered properly and that was a really long month!” said Sue.

“You could always tell she wanted to get through it. The vet would say ‘we need to get her extending and more supple through the joint’ and the next time she came out of her stable you could see she’d be trying.”

Sue added that the pony was mostly a “model patient”, coping well with the extended box rest.

“She was fairly intelligent the whole time, even when we were having to walk her in hand up and down the neighbour’s driveway in the dark,” she said. “The first time my son hacked her a trailer went past and she bucked him off, gave him a big fat lip, but she was very sorry afterwards!

“The first time she saw a cross pole again was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen — she was like Tigger, she was so excited.”

Hally, who had spent most of her life with the same family in Ireland before Sue bought her, returned to competition in June this year and has not had a single fault so far. On her most recent outing at Moores Farm, she won a 1.10m open, coming second at that height the next day.

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“We’ve got to be really careful with what we do with her and we won’t jump her in the wet or on bad surfaces but she’s thriving at the moment,” added Sue.

“I can’t thank our vets David Rowlands and Simon Joyner (at Western Counties) enough for everything they did,” she said. “I’m so grateful we still have my son’s ‘magic unicorn’ and that her zest for life has got her through so much. Perseverance really does pay off.”

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