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Tales from the H&H Festival of Eventing: ‘the vet thought she had had a stroke’

Lisa Hill’s world turned upside down when she received a phone call from her yard owner at 5.30am in November last year.

Lisa arrived at the yard to find her 14-year-old Irish sports horse mare, Spirit, leaning on the wall unable to stand.

“It was awful, nothing prepared me for what I saw. Her eyes were doing weird things and she was crashing about. I’ve never seen a horse do anything like it. She had no control of her legs, she’d been lying down on her water buckets,” Lisa told H&H.

“The vet arrived and thought she had had a stroke. He didn’t think we could do anything and wanted to put her down. She looked so sorry for herself. I was watching her crash around the stable it was horrible. 

“She hit her head and the vet thought it was neurological and something was wrong with her brain – it was a really bad sign. She was dangerous because she couldn’t control her legs.”

A whinny from Spirit told Lisa what she needed to keep going.

“I told the vet I didn’t want her put down and he administered painkillers. I knew it wasn’t her time to go – she wasn’t done yet, said Lisa.

“After the painkillers she eventually got up and got steadier on her feet as the morning progressed. I’m so glad we didn’t follow the vet’s advice straight away.”

Blood tests didn’t reveal anything wrong and it is thought Spirit had suffered colic.

“We think the neurological stuff was concussion from getting in a state hitting her head. A few days later I took her for hack, she was a bit wobbly but she was ok and she has been fine since. We spent the winter doing showjumping and have done some unaffiliated events this season,” said Lisa.

“We are taking part in the Spillers 80cm class. We were here last year but went wrong in dressage so we’re back to redeem ourselves. The event is great – there’s not anything like this around in unaffiliated so it’s really good for people like me.”

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Lisa scored 37.5 in the dressage and is looking ahead to the cross-country.

“I hate dressage but we got round the test – we had a muddle in a canter transition but we fixed it. Cross-country is our thing, she’s a jumping horse and she’ll rock. The course is looking nice and inviting. She shouldn’t touch a pole in the showjumping so I’m hoping for a double clear,” said Lisa.

“Spirit’s comeback has been remarkable – she was so close to death, I can’t believe we’re here competing. She can do anything she wants at any event now, I’m just so grateful and humbled she is still here.”

Don’t miss the full report from the H&H Festival of Eventing in Horse & Hound magazine — on sale Thursday, 6 June.

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