‘It was devastating – I nearly wrote her off’: mare overcomes injury to return to the Winter Dressage Championships

  • In July 2021, Mandy Day was riding high – after a successful Winter Dressage Championships, she was celebrating making her international debut with her beloved mare Giomf (Merrie), and gaining the coveted British flag. But just a few weeks later, everything came crashing down as Merrie suffered a fracture in her near fore, and her competitive future was thrown into doubt. 

    “It was devastating,” says Mandy, describing how the then 10-year-old mare suddenly became severely lame after tripping during a training session. 

    “She was relatively sound the next day, but then tripped and went lame again. That was when we went to the vets, and after scans and an MRI the extent of her injury was revealed.”

    The mare needed a year off work, and Mandy describes the months spent rehabbing her as “hellish”, and she thought her dream of training Merrie up to grand prix was over.

    “I nearly wrote her off,” she admits. “But my trainer, Lisa Hopkins, told me to throw everything I could at getting her better.”

    Mandy persevered with an “unbelievably hard” walk programme over the winter, and gradually building up. And, almost exactly a year since the injury, Merrie returned to the competition arena, producing a prix st georges (PSG) personal best on their first outing. 

    But it was winning the inter I silver title at the Arena UK winter regionals in January 2023, and booking their place at this year’s Winter Dressage Championships, that meant the most. 

    “To win at the regionals – I just couldn’t believe it. I was so excited,” says Mandy. 

    “Merrie is hot and keen to ride, the sort of horse that absolutely loves her work every day. I’m back to aiming for grand prix with her. 

    “Bringing them through something like this pushes you a bit more,” she adds. “It makes you realise just how short a horse’s career can be, and that it’s so rare to find a good one. I’m still pinching myself to think we have qualified for the nationals after all that time off. It makes me feel so emotional.”

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