Road to RIHS: ‘He had 101 days on box rest’ — Welsh stallion overcomes rare tumour and EMS diagnosis

  • Welsh section B stallion Thistledown Americano (Cracker) is heading to the 2022 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) to contend the SSADL ridden championship on his debut year as a veteran campaigner.

    The 15-year-old and his owner/rider Daisy Conibear qualified for the prestigious final, which is being held at Hickstead for the second time this year, at Royal Bath & West.

    Cracker originally came over from Ireland and Daisy purchased him from a good friend after losing her former pony.

    “He came at the right time and filled a gap for us,” explains Daisy, who qualified Cracker for the Pretty Polly final at the RIHS in 2019. “We bought him to show but he’s ended up being the most loving and versatile pony in the world. He does working hunter, cross country and he does well in dressage, too. He even hacks around the village with a three-year-old jockey.”

    During the end of 2019, Cracker began showing signs of sporadic lameness before some investigation revealed he had a keratoma in his hind hoof.

    “We had the farrier and the vet out but we couldn’t work out what was wrong,” continues Daisy, who produces Cracker from home. “He was referred to Western Counties Equine Hospital and an MRI scan revealed he had a rare benign tumour called a keratoma. Thankfully, it wasn’t cancerous and he had an operation under general anaesthetic to remove it. The tumour had eaten a crescent shape out of his pedal bone and he is now consequently shod to help with that.”

    Cracker was on box rest for 101 days after his operation.

    “He was as good as gold,” says Daisy. “He was then slowly brought back into work, beginning with 10 minute walks each day for a month. His soundness returned which was amazing, especially given the statistics associated with horses who have had the same operation. I started riding him again and we even qualified for the RIHS in 2019. Unfortunately, the following winter he was diagnosed with EMS, thought to be triggered by the general anaesthetic. This was scary, as I lost my old pony to the same condition.”

    After months of treatment and a change in routine, which included a strict diet, a turnout plan and medication, Cracker made a winning return to the show ring at Bath & West.

    “Thankfully we caught the EMS early,” says Daisy. “He’s no longer conditioned enough to contend the open riddens, so we decided to wait until he was eligible for veterans. We had no expectations during our qualifier [at Bath & West] but he won a really strong class and topped the championship. We all cried and cried. He’ll never leave us; I owe him everything and he doesn’t owe us a thing.”

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