Shaun Mandy’s dressage blog: ‘I just kept thinking that this is my princess and I can’t lose her’

  • Dear gorgeous readers,

    I am sitting at my lovely little desk getting through some paper work, and thought, what a perfect time to start writing to you. I will be interrupted, however, as have my sport’s massage booked in an hour — can’t wait!

    The past few weeks have definitely been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster with fun parties, catching up with friends who I have not seen for ages, competitions and nearly losing D.I Dompadour (Poppy) to colic.

    My dear friend Ashley Rossiter of Mirror Me PR invited me to the launch of Très Health Equestrian Rider Services by Quintessentially Equestrian and Très Health. It was a great night at the Chelsea Bridge Clinic in London and the champagne was flowing! My date for the night was good friend Tatiana Mountbatten and we certainly had a laugh. It was fab to meet some fun and interesting people including two lovely Horse & Hound employees, Cathy Comerford and Storm Johnson and also to catch up with some familiar faces including showjumper and ambassador of Très Health, Jay Halim.

    With Ashley

    With Ashley

    I was sipping on my champagne when I heard my name being called. Turning to look, I saw it was one of my Pony Club fathers who had recognised me out of my riding gear. Of course for the rest of the night, I was on my best behaviour. Small world!

    With Storm, Cathy and Tatiana

    With Storm, Cathy and Tatiana

    I overnighted with a great friend Sam Bradley from my school days who had just moved to London with his wife Christie and two-year-old daughter. The following morning I met up with my fabulous friend Zoe Souter of Condé Nast Fashion college in Soho. We had a delicious breakfast at the Soho Hotel catching up on each other’s news. Zoe then gave me a personal guided tour of the college and what can I say… just, Vogue! It was such fun to be in London, even though it was a whirlwind visit as I was back on my train heading home by 11am.

    Having breakfast with Zoe

    Having breakfast with Zoe

    Lorain Nixon’s four-year-old Houston V (Huey) went to Hartpury to do his second competition in the Badminton Young Dressage Horse class. He was such a good boy and was third with 78.8%. We just missed out of qualifying for the finals at Badminton which was fine as I feel he will be more prepared to go there next year as a five-year-old. I did not miss out on going to Badminton as I had two teams from my Pony Club I teach (the Old Berks) and five individual riders competing in the Badminton Pony Club Dressage. It was a great day and all my riders did me proud.

    Two days earlier I had been teaching my Pony Club when Hannah, my groom, called me to say that Poppy was not eating her dinner. Poppy loves her food and especially after Hannah had offered her some treats which she refused, I knew she was not feeling well. I told Hannah to call the vet out while I finished up with the Pony Club. By the time I had got back to the yard my vet Tia had tubed her as she did have colic. Hannah was now holding her out for some grass and Tia said all seemed fine and just for me to come and check on her in a couple of hours.

    Coming back down the yard driveway at 9pm, I was just expecting to see a happy horse, give her some more hay for the night and head home to bed. I then noticed a missed call from Debbie (Beasant), fellow dressage rider and my yard landlady. Debbie and Jack’s home is next door to my stables and Debbie had heard Poppy in distress. I called the vet immediately and took Poppy out of her stable to walk her around. It was quite clear that the colic had come back and she was very uncomfortable. If I stopped walking her for a moment she would try and roll so we carried on walking for nearly an hour while waiting for the vet on duty.

    Poppy on a drip

    Poppy on a drip

    I was starting to slightly panic at this point and thought I would need to get her into hospital. Caroline arrived and within five minutes of examining her, we had Poppy drugged up, loaded in the lorry and I was on my way to Bourton Vale Equine Hospital.

    At this point I was starting to feel a little emotional. As many of you will know, I have had Poppy since she was just five and she came with me when I packed up home in 2013 to live in Denmark and work for and train with Hasse Hoffmann for 18 months. She was the one really who was at the start of my dressage career.

    I drove as carefully, but as fast as I could and was unloading her an hour later at the vets. I was met by three vets: Tim, Moureen and Breda. They were fantastic and we had her in a stable straight away where they could start observing her.

    Tim was brilliant at talking to me about everything they were doing. A bit of time had to pass for the drugs to wear off so they could see what symptoms she was showing. After a couple of examinations and scanning Poppy’s tummy, the decision was made to operate and the surgeon vet was called.

    My dog Pringle giving Poppy a kiss

    My dog Pringle giving Poppy a kiss

    By now I was very emotional and could not hide the tears as Tim was telling me what was going to be happening. I just kept thinking that this is my princess and I can’t lose her.

    I wanted to stay and wait for the operation, but I was told to go home and sleep as the operation would take about four hours and by now it was nearly 1am. I didn’t think I would sleep, but I woke up at 5am to my phone ringing. It was Maureen from the hospital. She said Poppy was awake and stable, but that Tim would call me in a few hours with more info.

    When Tim did call he told me that as much as Poppy was awake she was very sick and also that she had an infection. I could very much tell in his voice that it was not looking overly promising. I was in my car and on way to see her straight away, trying not to cry all the way there! It was at this point that I thought I was driving up to see her for the last time. Part of Poppy’s intestine was still not working after the op and this had to kick in by itself now for her to live.

    Well, it kicked in and by that afternoon she was perking up! Poppy stayed another eight days in hospital and was on the drip for two days. I just picked her up a couple of days ago and she is now starting her long recovery (about three months) back at home.

    I have so much thanks to give for the vets at Bourton Vale who saved her and was also very much overwhelmed with the amount of love and support from friends and Poppy fans all over the world — you all know who you are and it really did help me get through it.

    So Inky (pictured top) and I went to Moreton Morrell last Saturday to do a run through of medium 76 which we are doing at the summer regionals at Mount Ballen.

    We finished second with 68.79% and that included a pilot error! I was so pleased with how he felt in the ring. I have been having a few issues with him getting behind my leg in the test, which is what happened a few weeks ago at Hartpury Premier League in the advanced medium. It was good as Peter (Storr) helped me in my warm up and then could see what was happening in my test. Peter has really helped me work through this and getting a better connection. Also riding medium canter around my arena before starting definitely helped!

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    So, busy times ahead with two summer regionals (Mount Ballen for the medium and Bury Farm for the advanced medium) and possibly another shopping trip to Germany, this time looking at a four-year-old.

    My Vitalis three-year-old

    My Vitalis three-year-old

    Oooh forgot to say, I backed the two three-year-olds Lorain and I bought from Germany and have sold the Furstenball one. She has gone to a lovely home in Northumberland where she has the chance to have a great career ahead of her.

    I have just recently been invited to be an ambassador for Horse Scout and will have more news on that next time as have probably waffled on too much by now!

    Until soon xx

    Body mind mastery quote: “Others will underestimate us, for although we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, others judge us only by what we have already done” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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