Skewbald super-pony returns from multiple surgeries to contest dressage championships

  • A colic operation and surgery on all four legs has proved no barrier to the doughty Bryntegllwnynau Rocky Robin, who was competing in the elementary silver at the Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships 2024. The skewbald, who stands barely 14.2hh, is a super jack of all trades, having started out as a racing pony, then a Pony Clubber before become a championships dressage contender.

    “I’ve had him since he was four and I was 12 – and he’s now 17,” said his rider April Joynson. “We’ve come a long way, but there have been a lot of bumps in the road.”

    April bought Robin from a family who enjoyed pony racing, and he wasn’t fast enough. But nor did they envisage he’d be a dressage pony.

    “Mum was into dressage so she got me doing Pony Club and we cottoned on to the fact that he’s very rhythmical and has a lovely canter, so I had some decent scores and that’s how the journey started,” she explained.

    Robin’s not only flourished between the white boards, he also won a one-day event last year.

    Petplan Area Festival Championships 2024 contender: “Old but gold!”

    Robin had colic surgery in 2018, when the vets warned April “not to get my hopes up” for any competition prospects.

    “They said he was unlikely to return to ridden work and certainly not to compete in shows like today, no chance,” she said. “But he came back feeling really strong, and we got to the championships in 2020. We finished middle of the board but I was just happy to be there.”

    Then last year, he had his palmar annular ligaments operated on, first the hinds, followed by the forelegs.

    “He was supposed to have six months’ complete rest, and then six months’ rehab, so I thought I’d have to miss this, but after four months the vet said he was good to go and to crack on. So my first show was the qualifiers and we finished a close second. Then he got a personal best in a medium, so he’s getting better and better – old but gold!

    “It doesn’t always go perfectly, but he’s adorable and always tries his best. He’s a dream pony. Although it wasn’t always like that – as a four-year-old I was on the floor most of the time.”

    Their performance in this class was not their best – “sadly today he decided to have a couple of canters in the medium trot” – and April rued comparing her ride to her rivals.

    “We had a few blips, because I asked too much, but that’s where as a rider you have to adapt to your horse,” she said. “I look around the arenas here and it gets in my head that I should be doing a bigger trot, and they need to sit more, uphill, go, go, go. And that’s where he says, ‘I had better canter, I can’t do any more on my little legs’.”

    They finished 20th in a field of nearly 40 on 66.37%. Bethany Edginton won the class on Nelson HD on a score of 73.24%.

    Dealing with “eau de cheval”

    It’s not only Robin working his socks off. April works full time in marketing for an engineering company.

    “It’s tricky – a lot of early mornings,” she says. “I get up at 5.30am, muck them out, put them out and start work at 7.30am. I’m lucky the office is about 20 minutes from the yard. I always make jokes that if I smell, please tell me and I’ll quickly put more perfume on but [my colleagues] know the drill, like if I have a bit of straw in my hair, they’ll tell me I might want to grab that out!”

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