National hunt racehorse Observe, one of the ILPH’s star residents, has been put down at the age of 26 following an accident in the field

Observe one of ILPH’s celebrity residents has been put to sleep after suffering a fractured femur while out in the field.

Observe, or “Hobbie” as he was affectionately known, came to ILPH Glenda Spooner Farm in February 1999. Described as “a shadow of his former self“, staff say he bore no relation to the national hunt horse that had previously won some of the country’s leading races. Hobbie was severely emaciated suffering from teeth and feet problems.

In his heyday, Observe had a prolific national hunt racing career. Trained by Fred Winter, he recorded 18 wins and 12 placings from 40 starts. Among his most memorable wins were the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase and the Tripleprint Gold Cup in 1982.

John Francome was one of Observe’s regular jockeys and it was while riding Observe he clocked his 1,000th winner.He said: “When Observe first came to Fred Winter’s, he jumped badly left handed but never stopped improving and gave me some super rides. He was a grand old servant to us and I am really pleased that he finally had such a happy retirement with ILPH.”

Hard times for former star

After Observe was retired from racing, he enjoyed several seasons hunting before being sold on and subsequently falling on hard times. At one point he was advertised for sale in a local paper as “a plodder, suitable for a novice, £1,000 with tack”‘.

Found in a very poor condition, Observe came to ILPH suffering with teeth problems and lameness caused by tender feet. However, with remedial shoeing and a special diet he improved enough to enjoy quiet hacks around the Herefordshire lanes.

In the three years Observe spentwith the ILPH, he took on many roles. He acted as nanny to the youngsters, exerting a calming influence when he accompanied them out into the village.

He was a popular resident, attracting many visitors keen to meet the racing legend. The former racing star even made a return to Cheltenham where he paraded before the start of the Foxhunter in which he had won 12 years previously.

On the day he died, Observe was turned out as usual but as he cantered off up the hill, his femur fractured. Having occurred at the site of an old injury, it was decided to put him to sleep by injection.

Janet Dale, manager at Glenda Spooner Farm said: “We are all so sad. He was a great character and the place just won’t be the same without him.”

Plans for rescue centre development

  • The ILPH’s Hall Farm centre in Snetterton, Norfolk is to undergo extensive development to increase its facilities and capacity to house rescued horses.

    The work will include a new visitors’ centre, with a gift shop, caf‚ and a lecture room/viewing gallery, a new covered riding arena, purpose-built veterinary, farrier and recovery boxes and an American barnhousing 23 extra stables.

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