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Eventer given 50:50 chance of recovery after horror fall wins on his comeback

A competition horse has bounced back from a serious tendon injury picked up as a result of a fall out hunting to win on his eventing comeback after 18-months off.

The 17hh gelding, Artic Skippy, quickly moved up the levels to two-star during his first season with owner Emma Hawksby. The 28-year-old County Durham-based rider bought the chestnut in February 2016 as a eight-year-old.

The family subscribe to the Zetland Hunt and Emma’s mother Angela took Skippy out on 8 December after she heard H&H were covering the day.

“The only reason she went on Skippy that day was because H&H were with us and she didn’t want to go out on a youngster,” recalls Emma, who has 20 horses in her yard, producing them for owners.

They were just cantering across a field with long grass and Skippy put his front legs down an unseen drain. He flipped over and my mother broke her neck,” she told H&H.

Angela was taken to the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough where scans showed she’d broken C4 and C6 bones in her neck.

Doctors said there was no need for an operation and she could leave the hospital that day providing she was careful and wore a neck brace.

Skippy’s prognosis for a full recovery was not so good.

“He’d put a gigantic hole is his SDFT (superficial digital flexor tendon) and was very lame,” said Emma.

Vets at Hambleton Equine Clinic, Stokesley, where he’d gone for treatment suggested trying stem cell treatment and took cells from bone marrow in his sternum.

These were sent off and three weeks later the harvested cells were put into two locations in Skippy’s leg.

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The horse then had four months box rest at home before going to a local yard to go on a walker for six weeks, then coming home for six months field rest.

Even after further laser treatment, vets weren’t optimistic about his chance of competing again.

“Vets said he had a 50:50 chance of making a full recovery,” said Emma.

“I would have been happy if he’d been able to have some form of a lifestyle, perhaps as a hunter, but never thought he would come back to event properly again.”

Last December he was walked for eight weeks, then trotted for another eight weeks before starting canter work.

Emma didn’t jump Skippy until May, but later that month at the Northumberland County show (27 May) he finished second in the open working hunter class.

She then entered him nervously for the novice Aske International Horse Trials on 30 June, where to her delight he won a novice section.

I only wanted him to come home safely and never expected him to win,” she said.

The pair’s next outing is on 27 July in the CIC 2* at Burgham Horse Trials.

In this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday 12 July 2018, don’t miss our ‘Rider fitness’ special including what top riders eat, fitness for across the disciplines and more.

Plus, read our interview with Royal Ascot-winning trainer Eve Johnson Houghton and in this week’s ‘Vet clinic’ we take a look at bacterial meningitis in horses. We also have reports from eventing action at Barbury, racing from Sandown Park and much more.

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