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31-year-old pony ‘written off’ by vets with ruptured tendon returns to jumping a year later

A pony who was “written off” by vets when he ruptured a tendon just over a year ago has made a return to the showjumping ring at the age of 30.

Linda Savage’s Dartmoor Marmite, now 31, came second in an unaffiliated event just after Christmas, almost 14 months after his injury.

Linda told H&H vets said the 12hh gelding would never jump again when they assessed his tendon.

“We don’t know how he did it,” she said. “I got a call to say he was absolutely crippled lame; he was in agony.

“The vet came out to scan it and they’d never seen anything like it, the tendon was completely ruptured. I think they were thinking it would be best to put him down but I thought ‘we’re going to do our best’.”

Linda praised the owners and others at her livery yard, Dave Jones and Sue Walker’s Duckhurst Farm in Kent, for their knowledge and experience, crediting it as “a very good place to be when something like this happens”.

“He looked so well,” Linda said. “He couldn’t have had better care. One day, I said to Sue ‘he’s not limping’ as he walked, and she said: ‘hold your breath!’”

Five months later, Marmite was allowed into the indoor school, “for a roll”.

“He gave us an exhibition of what he could do,” Linda said. “He was bucking, twisting and turning, looking at us as if to say ‘look at me!’ I was in dismay, but then once he started doing flying changes, we were laughing.

“I know so many people going through this sort of thing and they’re despondent and I say don’t despair, the vets had written Marmite off.”

Marmite stayed sound, and on 29 December, jumped his first 60cm class since the injury, with Katie Lott on board, to come second.

“When he first jumped again, I bawled my eyes out, I was laughing and crying at the relief,” Linda said.

Linda had never had horses until she bought Marmite, some 20 years ago. He had come to Duckhurst to be sold and when Linda heard how upset the children were at the prospect, she stepped in.

“I went down there and asked Dave where he was, and he said ‘in whatever field he wants’, which sums him up. I went home and my husband asked if I’d had a nice time and I said ‘yes, I’ve bought a pony’. He said ‘what?’ But it was the best money I’ve ever spent.”

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Since then, Marmite has taught “a list of children as long as my arm” to jump, scorching round jump-offs sometimes faster than his riders.

“You have to just let him do his own thing because he knows what he’s doing,” Linda said. “My grandson rode him once and fell off, but Marmite just carried on and did the jump-off on his own; by pure luck, he even got the course right. He’s so used to doing the courses, you just have to watch he doesn’t do turns you’re not ready for.”

Linda said the plan now is for Marmite to carry on jumping “as long as he’s happy”, and that he shows no signs of wanting to stop.

“A child was tacking him up today (3 January) and there was a British Showjumping show on so he thought he was jumping – he slowed right up once he realised he was hacking instead, but he was as good as gold,” Linda said.

“He’ll step it up for older children but be really careful with little ones, he’s absolutely angelic.

“He’s really been the perfect pony; he’s everything to me. We’ve always said he’s the love of my life and he really is.”

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