Dan and the 10-year-old gelding Duke of Champions, owned by Joyce Snook and Jo Preston-Hunt and Philip Hunt, were competing in the CCI4*-S at the NAF Five Star International Hartpury Horse Trials (12-15 August) when the pair fell at the corner combination at fences 13 and 14.
Dan, who represented New Zealand at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, told H&H Duke of Champions had been having a great season, and went to Hartpury fresh from Burgham International where they were third in the British intermediate championship.
“Hartpury was supposed to be the build up for Blenheim (16-19 September) and possibly his last event before we went there. He had been carrying some good form and was more than capable of what he was being asked. We had a good solid dressage test the day before, and he jumped well in the morning with just one pole down in the showjumping,” said Dan.
“I was excited for the cross-country having come from a great run at Burgham and thought the style of the course suited him and was very similar. We had a great warm-up and start to the cross-country. There was some big bold fences including the water in the first quarter and some skinny arrow heads down the hill and he felt good halfway round the track.
Dan said he did not recall anything “out of the ordinary” happening as they came down the hill to approach the corners.
“We jumped in and for some reason or another he picked up on two strides instead of three. I didn’t ask him to do that – if I analyse it, I possibly could have been one beat slower in my approach to the first corner,” he said.
“It was only the horse’s second ever cross-country fault in the six years I’ve had him. We certainly got punished quite heavily for whatever mistake it was.”
Dan sustained a broken tibia, partially collapsed lung and severe bruising to his ribs. Duke of Champions went on to jump a number of cross-country fences and a car bonnet before he was caught, but did not suffer any injuries.
“I was in a lot of pain and knew something was broken, I was just hoping there weren’t too many things broken,” he said.
“I think Duke of Champions was probably in a little bit of shock because something like that had never happened to him before. He hadn’t seen crowds of people for a while, and while he’s not a horse usually fazed, I think with all the factors put together and the open space, he was a bit overwhelmed by what happened.”
Dan underwent surgery on his leg and was released from hospital on 17 August.
“It’s a pain as it obviously puts me out for a while, but I was weight-bearing the day after the operation. I had the stitches out and an X-ray on Wednesday (1 September) and the surgeon is more than happy with the recovery,” said Dan.
“I’ve asked a couple of friends to help with a bit of riding of the Duke and Giovanni Ugolotti is going to ride him at an event in a couple of weeks. Certainly my dream of going to Blenheim with this horse is over, but I’m not writing off the autumn season and I have a plan in mind. I’m thinking of an alternative three-day event for us – this is a horse that I am hoping will represent New Zealand in the not too distant future, so we want to keep his mileage going and not let him be too affected by what happened. I’m very thankful to my small group of owners and supporters who have been understanding.”
Dan and his wife Emma have recently moved to a new base at Minety, Wiltshire.
“I spent the first while housebound with my leg up but the last week I’ve been going down to the yard for a couple of hours. I’m quietly itching away now to do a bit more, but it will be more for my leg than myself. I’ve had a lot of injuries and understand the pain and frustration, but I also understand the recovery and allowed myself a bit of time to rest and recover properly,” he said.
“Now the stitches are out I hope to get on a bike and in the pool and build the strength back up. You can lose a lot of fitness and core strength in two-and-a-half weeks and I really want to get back so that I can give the horse the best chance and have a go at the end of the season.”
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