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Hickstead first-timers: Fell stallion back in the ring after tendon injury

Find out more about the pony who has defied the odds to qualify for the BHS Royal International Horse Show for the first time

A major tendon injury would signal the end of a ridden career for a lot horses, let alone one in the show ring. But one home-produced family’s plucky Fell pony has defied the odds to not only come back sound as a pound but go on to qualify for both the Royal International (RIHS) and the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

Foalsyke Little Topper, a 10-year-old bay stallion standing at 13.2hh, was bought by Tamworth-based Julie Fisher three years ago for her daughter, Hope, who was 16 at the time.

“I bought him unseen from a photograph, on a bit of a whim really,” said Julie. “It was worth the risk as he ticked every box.”

While Hope and ‘Topper’ got their partnership off to a flying start, a year later the stallion went unsound.

“It took us a long time to work out what he had done, and he was initially treated for a suspensory ligament,” continued Julie. “But we realised this wasn’t the problem, as his lameness was reoccurring.”

Eight months later, Topper went to Newmarket and was diagnosed with a torn Manika tendon.

“He had an operation to remove the torn tendon and was on box rest for a long time. After some time in, I had to walk him out twice a day, for three months.

“We considered retiring him to stud, as just when we thought we had got him right, we would be back to square one. We never thought about putting him to sleep, though, he is just too special. The whole process took about 18 months.”

After a heartbreaking two years, Topper’s road to recovery finally came to an end, and the pony made a triumphant return to the show ring this season. The pair joined up to Ponies (UK) with the intention of contending the RIHS young rider qualifiers, but at the start of the year, found themselves with no transport for three months.

Julie continued: “We only managed to get three RIHS qualifiers booked in. At the last qualifier of the year (Staffordshire County Show) we borrowed a trailer and loaded Topper up, who completely surprised us by winning both the junior class with Hope and the amateurs with my other daughter, Poppy.”

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The Fisher’s fairytale continued into mid-May when Topper and Hope went onto win their second ever HOYS qualifier at The Show Register spring show before landing the overall ridden championship.

“This will be Topper’s first time at Hickstead, and will certainly be an emotional one after the rocky road we’ve endured.”

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