The vet competing in two disciplines on home-breds: ‘I’ve been very lucky to have such a lovely, genuine line of mares’

  • Being a full-time vet, riding at inter I level in dressage, competing at advanced in eventing and breeding your own dynasty of competition horses are all impressive achievements – Sam Cutts is managing all four.

    Last Friday (10 December) at Onley Grounds, Sam rode in her first inter I on Piccola Diavola (“Holly”), a daughter of Piccola Star (“Fern”), who Sam rode on the British junior eventing team in 2003 and took up to four-star (now five-star) level. Holly has also competed at advanced in eventing this year.

    “Fern was my first horse of a lifetime, taking me from Pony Club to five-star, so breeding was the logical thing to do at the end of her career,” says Sam. “I had had a nice young horse by Devil’s Jump and Fern won a covering to him at Lanhydrock early in her eventing career, so I used it once she had retired. I’ve done everything with Holly – she was about seven before anyone else even sat on her.”

    Holly has now had twin foals by embryo transfer, who are four-year-olds. They are by Wish Upon A Star.

    “I was able to do most of the vet work myself on the embryo transfer to keep the cost down,” says Sam, who is an equine partner at Hook Norton Veterinary Group, specialising in stud and performance work.

    “I kept one – Piccola Wish, known as Ivy – and sold one, Piccola Stella, to Louise Bradley to go eventing, as I realised having Holly, two four-year-olds, a child and a vet practice was going to be too much!”

    Sam Cutts says that the horses from the line are all “lovely, willing mares” but they do have their differences too.

    “Holly is much more straightforward and very trainable, hence going further in dressage, but she’s probably not a five-star horse because she’s almost too obedient at everything. Fern had real fire in belly and would have jumped moon, but she was not very amenable at dressage. She thought flying changes were very exciting.

    “I’ve been very lucky to have such a lovely, genuine line of mares. Holly is far from the most physically talented but she gives you everything and you can’t ask for much more.”

    After her inter I outing at Onley Grounds, Holly is now on the way to being qualified for an Area Festival at inter I, having already achieved her qualification at prix st georges and Sam hopes they can complete their qualification in their final outing of the year.

    “Everyone else in the inter I was in the gold section and really rather smart, so we were glad to be in bronze!” says Sam. “Holly tried her heart out. We made a couple of mistakes in the two-time changes and the second canter pirouette got smaller and smaller until she couldn’t keep cantering, but those mistakes are through my lack of experience riding at that level as much as anything.”

    Sam Cutts also has an 18-month-old daughter, Sophia (“she comes to all the competitions, she’s the mascot”), and says much of her ability to juggle all the elements of her life is down to Holly and Ivy’s brilliant temperaments.

    “Holly only goes in the school a couple of times a week, the girls on the yard hack her the rest of the time, but she’s so consistent and keeps trying,” says Sam. “It’s a case of a good team on the yard and frantic juggling, making the most of every minute. I can only manage two horses in winter, outside the stud season because I do a lot of stud work.”

    Holly will retire in March to become a broodmare and Sam is likely to put her to Cevin Z.

    “She could always have done with jumping a little higher in the showjumping and I have some clients who have bred some lovely Cevin Z horses,” says Sam. “They have also got very amenable temperaments – for me, there’s not much point breeding an Olympic horse that needs three people for me to get on it because the horses have to fit in with my interesting work schedule.”

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