Tales from Hartpury: ‘The outlook was grim, but we decided to give him one last chance’

  • A “miracle horse” made it to the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships against the odds. Alex Greatorex and the dapple grey eight-year-old Carrick Toomes Ambassador scored 68.33% in the Prestige Italia novice silver, having been unbeaten throughout their British Dressage career until this point.

    It’s a fantastic achievement for any combination, but even more so considering the challenges Alex and “Sam” have faced since she bought him as a four-year-old to event.

    “He qualified for the four-year-old eventing championships in 2018 and won his first BE100 event the following season. During the 2019 eventing season, he was found to have multiple OCD lesions in his hock and had to have surgery followed by a long rehab,” said Alex. “He came back successfully and finished the season with hopes of stepping up to novice as a six-year-old.

    “However on Valentine’s Day in 2020, Sam sustained a field injury. He had 60% damage to his superficial flexor tendon, from galloping around the paddock playing while I was at work.”

    A long period of box rest and treatment followed, and Sam was rescanned in August 2020, with some improvement. But then, disaster struck again when Sam re-injured his tendon during his rehab.

    “He had around 80% damage. The vet advised that this was career ending for him as an event horse, and if he could be managed he could only return to ridden work as a light hack with no jumping, or hard work. The outlook was grim, but we decided to give him one last chance.”

    Alex called on a local friend, Bridget Hitchcock, who allowed Sam to join her donkey, Shetland and a retired racehorse in her fields, where he was roughed off for six months over the winter.

    “After looking sound and happy and having unbelievably good scans, his time in the paddock has to come to an end, and he moved to Vicarage Farm in Newmarket, where I slowly returned him to work,” said Alex, who trains with Sally Hardwick. “By summer he was still sound and happy, competing and winning!”

    The pair have enjoyed a whirlwind 12 months of competing, winning every dressage test they entered from prelim up to elementary including the regional championships at novice, qualifying them for their first Winter Dressage Championships.

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