Tales from Hickstead: Veteran pony returns to Royal International against the odds

  • ELLA DUNN’s 18-year-old Arab/Welsh show pony has defied the odds to be heading for his third Royal International Horse Show. Despite various setbacks, Abbas Blue Rainbow has qualified for both the 148cm show pony and Pretty Polly show pony classes. He will be one of the oldest in his classes.

    Purchased as a 12-year-old six years ago, Dancer as he is known at home, gave Ella lots of experience in the ring at the start of their partnership.

    “I was only 11 when we got him and tiny – I couldn’t really ride one side of him, but he’s been so good and taught me so much,” said Ella, who is based in Scotland. “He was already a winning show pony, so he showed me the ropes in the ring.”

    In 2018 aged 15, Dancer was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) after a severe bout of laminitis.

    “We weren’t sure he’d ever recover,” said Ella. “He was totally off his feet and on box rest for six weeks, and we didn’t know if he would ever be ridden again.”

    Thankfully, medication helped to bring Dancer’s condition under control until eventually, he came off the medication and Ella could manage him through diet and exercise alone.

    “He bounced back brilliantly by 2019 with no bouts of laminitis, but at the start of 2020 he wasn’t in the best way,” said Ella. “The winter hit him hard, he was lacking condition and we just couldn’t put the weight on him.”

    With consistent feeding of a low-calorie diet and exercise including a lot of hacking, Dancer has come back better than ever to qualify for the open show ponies at RIHS for the first time in more than five years.

    “We used micronized linseed in his feeds, which has hardly any sugar but helps to put the weight on and keep their coats shiny,” said Ella, who will make the 12-hour journey from Scotland to Hickstead later this week. “Eventually his weight crept up and we kept having the vets out to take his bloods for the laminitis.”

    The pair made it back into the ring last August and haven’t looked back since.

    “He’s just flourished – he’s muscled up and is looking fab,” said Ella. “Just to get him back out and qualified has been the high of the season for me. He’s one in a million, and I can’t wait for him to strut around that ring.”

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