One of our stable stars, Stapleton Mist (John), has amazed me in recent weeks with just how clever and adaptable horses can be.
Everything had been going well for him this year — he had picked up some good wins in Spain and also made the shortlist for a couple of super league shows. But four weeks ago, back at home, he somehow managed to detach the retina in his left eye.
We had noticed he was a bit spooky on the left side and that his eye was a bit watery, so when our vet Shane Fouhy was at the yard, I asked him to take a look. I wasn’t overly worried, but Shane recommended that we send him to the vets at Donnington Grove in Newbury for investigation.
When we did, a thunderbolt hit us — they told us the situation wasn’t salvageable and that his eye would have to be removed that day.
Never having had a horse in more than 35 years with one eye, I went straight to the top for advice and spoke to Trevor Breen. Having won the Hickstead Derby with his one-eyed horse Adventure De Kannan, he was the best person I could think of to call.
I didn’t quite get the answer I was looking for as Trevor explained that “Addy” had lost his sight gradually over a number of years, so he didn’t have to adapt suddenly.
Everyone was asking me how John would go with one eye — and I could only respond, “How long is a piece of string?”
After giving him a few weeks to settle, I thought the best thing to do was to put him back in the ring to see how he would cope.
We had an eight-fault outing at Pyecombe, and then I took him to the Welsh Masters, which was a considerable step up.
After a slightly shaky start on the first day — he has started to jink slightly, which I am sure is so he can get himself comfortable in his vision — we then made it through to the jump-off for the grand prix on the last day.
I thought, “There’s no point wondering if we can go fast, let’s try it” and he pulled off two tight turns on his blind side to go into the lead.
Normally, if someone beats you in that situation, it’s a bit disappointing. This time, however, the rider who came in and beat me was my young son, Harry (report, 21 April).
It wasn’t even close — it was a whole two seconds. Youth: you can’t beat it.
It was great though to have John feeling happy and like himself again, and a credit to the horse that he coped as well as he has.
When Britain is best
Geoff Billington did a great job guest editing Horse & Hound’s showjumping special (31 March) — he’s a man of many talents.
In the “Home or Away” feature, two riders were mentioned who have moved abroad to further their careers — Jessica Mendoza and Bertram Allen.
Their success, however, doesn’t come down to where they live. It’s a) because they are very good riders, and b) their horsepower. For both of them, their main horsepower was produced in Great Britain.
Bertram’s top string, Romanov, Quiet Easy 4 and Molly Malone V, were all produced from young horses in this country. For Jessica, Spirit T, the horse that made her a star, was bred and produced here by John Roberts and Louise Whitaker. The foreign horses in their strings aren’t in the same league — so it goes to show that Great Britain must have something to offer.
The Continent may lure a rider with rankings points and status, but that’s not always the best production system for the horse.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 April 2016