Bermuda-based sport horse travels more than 3,000 miles to retire in South Wales

  • A competition horse who had been living in Bermuda has made a round-the-world trip to enjoy his retirement in South Wales.

    Nicky van Dijk, owner of Happy Horse Retirement, has welcomed 18-year-old warmblood Splash almost a year after communications began with the gelding’s owners Andy and Elka Gibbs.

    Nicky told H&H the couple contacted her at the beginning of 2020, having found Happy Horse Retirement on social media.

    “In February Andy and their daughter Ashley flew from Bermuda to look round the yard,” she said. “They are such lovely people and I could tell how much they loved their horse and wanted to make sure it was the right yard for him.

    “I always say to owners it’s like sending your child off to boarding school, you’ve got to trust the people they’re going to.”

    Andy and Elka started looking into the logistics of transporting Splash to the UK but the pandemic meant their plans were disrupted.

    “Originally Splash was going to fly from Bermuda to New York, then to Europe but because of Covid the Bermuda airport was shut down,” she said. “So they had to wait, then in November he was shipped in a container over three days from Bermuda to New York.

    “Once he arrived in New York he was driven three hours to Connecticut where he had to spend 120 days on a quarantine yard.”

    Nicky said Splash, who formerly competed in dressage and showjumping with Ashley, was kept active while in quarantine with lunging to ensure he was fit for his next journey and she was provided with regular photos and updates.

    “On 16 February he was boxed up to JFK Airport in New York where he went into a compound for vet checks, and was then flown to Belgium. From there he was transported to Holland where he spent the night, and then he came across the English Channel to Kent.

    Splash safely arrived in South Wales on Friday, 19 February.

    “While all the travelling is a risk I knew Splash had been checked by vets all the way. When he arrived I put him into our big barn overnight so he could walk off any stiffness and he had two horses on the other side for company,” she said.

    “We watched over him into the night to make sure he was ok after such a long journey but he was drinking lots and while he seemed a bit insecure he quickly made friends with his neighbours Timmy and Seamus.”

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    Nicky said Splash has settled in well and is getting used to being turned out in a herd. The yard is based on 90 acres and the 45 residents enjoy 24-hour turnout during the summer.

    “It’s been lovely to see him playing with Timmy. I’ve been keeping Andy and Elka updated and they’re delighted. It’s amazing how quickly they settle in once they get here, we have other horses who have come from Dubai and Europe – we’re becoming quite international,” she said.

    “All the horses here are privately owned, it’s like a nursing home for horses. Andy and Elka are desperate to come and visit later this year. It’s a great compliment they picked us for Splash, the fact they flew him across the world says a lot.”

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