A pony called Alan who started life next to a main road, was bought for £5 and “got into dressage by accident” is to compete in the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships.
Spartacus VI, as he is formally known, and owner Vicci Smith will be competing in the prelim silver final at Hartpury in April, two years after he came into her life.
Vicci told H&H a friend of hers bought Alan as a foal from people living next to the A19 but that by the age of four, in 2018, he had not grown big enough for her.
“I wasn’t looking for a horse but thought he sounded ace and I’d give him a chance,” she said. “We agreed I’d buy him for £1 but when I went to get him, I didn’t have a pound coin, only a £5 note and it felt a bit wrong to be doing change!
“I hadn’t seen him before and thought ‘have I made a bit of a mistake?’ as he was small and very narrow and just hair everywhere.”
Vicci backed Alan – named by her children as “he really didn’t look like a Spartacus when he arrived” – and he was “an absolute dream”.
“He does everything at his own pace but he’s so accepting,” she said, adding that while the pair of them have done a great deal of hacking and beach rides, as well as following hounds, she had never planned to compete him in dressage.
“It just happened by accident; I started doing a bit of unaffiliated, just to get him out really, but we got some good scores and I thought ‘This is all right!’
“I think because he doesn’t look like a typical dressage horse but still goes correctly, the judges warm to him.”
The pair moved on to British Dressage competition, qualifying for the Petplan Equine Area Festival at Northallerton in August.
“I went there not expecting anything because suddenly it was very serious and everyone looked very professional – and there was me on my little hairy cob,” she said. “But we came second and qualified for the Area Festival Final.”
Vicci described the event, in September, as “another step up” but she and Alan finished fourth, 0.32% behind the last qualifying place for the Hartpury championships.
Then, of course, he repaid all my love, patience and vets’ bills by making it clear, as a six-year-old, that
‘I’d never part with him, even if someone offered me millions of pounds. He’s my best friend’
“That was fine; I’d said I’d be absolutely delighted to be in the top 15 so to come fourth was a dream,” Vicci said.
As she was new to dressage, Vicci had no idea of the wild card system – championship places are awarded to the highest-scoring non-qualified combinations – until she was tagged in a post on Facebook last week to say she had won one of the places.
Vicci added that she at first considered not going to Hartpury as she did not feel she could compare to other entrants, but then decided she owed it to her beloved Alan to have a go.
“He absolutely is my, and my family’s, best friend,” she said.
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