‘Our word fell apart’: mare who suddenly lost her colt foal books her HOYS return

  • The coloured mare So Sweet has returned to the show ring, after the devastating loss of her second foal, to qualify for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for the first time with her owner on board.

    Rachel Cowan and So Sweet, who is known at home as Kandi, qualified for the HOYS non-native coloured horse final at NCPA Staffordshire.

    Kandi was bought by Rachel from her friend Nicola Collins in 2015. Rachel had known Kandi since Nicola purchased her as a four-year-old and she had even ridden her for a season in the show ring.

    “I was so excited when my partner announced that he’d bought Kandi,” says Rachel. “But before long my eldest daughter Megan — who was 12 at the time — had stolen her from me as she was getting too tall for her ponies!”

    Despite the blossoming young partnership, Rachel took Kandi’s reins during her debut open season to finish fifth at the Royal International (RIHS) and also win The Showing Register’s pathway to HOYS class, providing Rachel with her dream ride at the championship show.

    “Kandi and Megan then began to make such progress that I took a step back and handed the ride in the ring over to Megan,” continues Rachel. “They won a lot together and enjoyed many seasons out and about, qualifying for both RIHS and HOYS, and winning many championships along the way.”

    In 2020, the family decided that they would make the most of the lockdown situation and put Kandi in foal, as Rachel explains: “It was the ideal opportunity and the timing was perfect. She had no more to prove in the show ring and I felt that my time riding her competitively was pretty much over, although I had always wanted to try and qualify her for HOYS in the open coloured class.

    “I spoke at length to Georgie Belton from the Gemini Stud and we both agreed that her Classic Opera was to be Kandi’s husband. Fast forward to 2021 and we were delighted when a textbook birth of a beautiful filly was fulfilled. She was exactly what I ordered!

    “Following a successful grading with Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain of both Kandi and her filly foal, Perfect Alibi, I decided to try for another one. We returned to Classic Opera and the match delivered once again; we welcomed a replica of the filly foal but this time he was a colt, who we named Perfect Expectation.”

    The family enjoyed a wonderful six months with “Reuben” before disaster struck.

    “Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be; on the 15 December 2022 our word fell apart when Reuben died,” Rachel says. “As a family we were totally heartbroken. I lost my mojo and everything became very dark. Kandi was understandably distressed at the sudden loss of her baby and I just couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

    “I was very lucky to have some amazing friends who held me up and kept me going. I was made to realise that Kandi was fit and well and as beautiful as ever so I really should make the most of her and make her son proud. A few months later, we kicked off the season by qualifying for two classes at RIHS.

    “I only entered two HOYS qualifiers and was utterly blown away to qualify at NCPA Staffordshire, after standing second to Vicky Smith and Mysterie Van De Heuval — I felt like I’d won HOYS! I was an emotional wreck having realised what we had achieved and after such a devastating start to the year, the sun was shining on us that day.

    “I have a piece of Reuben with me wherever I go and I know he will be watching over us as we trot around the TopSpec Arena at HOYS.”

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