Former Grand National runner enjoying new eventing career

  • A former Grand National runner has gone on to forge a successful new career eventing and showing.

    Bob Hall, who was owned by JP McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, recently finished sixth in a BE90 at Treborough.

    The 17-year-old gelding has also been a winner in Retraining of Racehorses classes, topping the line-up at Dunster.

    A son of the legendary Sadler’s Wells, Bob had career earnings of more than £60k before retiring aged 10. As well as his 2008 Grand National run, where he was pulled up at the 19th fence, his career highlights included victories at Cheltenham and Ascot.

    After being tried out unsuccessfully at a hunting yard on retirement, he was taken on by his current owner Natalie Stevens.

    “In 2011 I lost my last horse very suddenly. Bob had been summered out with the hunt horses and they said ‘he’s not doing anything, do you want to come and have a look?’ It was one of those things that just happened,” Natalie explained.

    “It took him a while to settle to not being in a racing life and for the first two and a half years I had him he must have spent a year off with various little injuries.

    “I tried hunting him but he was so excitable it didn’t feel very safe, so we started having group lessons and went on from there.”

    Natalie explained that it took a while to “get any canter” out of him, as he was prone to going sideways, but fun rides proved a perfect outlet for his enthusiasm.

    “They were good as there’s no hanging around, you just get on and go,” she said. “Once he started having something to put his energy into he became a lot more trainable, and then four years ago we started eventing.”

    While the pair “suffer” the dressage and showjumping, Bob really comes into his own across country.

    “He laps it up and takes everything in his stride,” said Natalie, who is based near Minehead. “Knowing you’ve got a horse that’s jumped Beechers really gives you confidence cross-country.”

    The pair missed a chunk of last season after Bob put his foot through a fence and had to have his pastern stitched up but they have come back better than ever.

    “We were thrilled to come sixth at Treborough, even if it was only a BE90, he’s gone from strength to strength,” she said. “He excelled himself with a 34.3 dressage. He’s my very own superstar and I feel so honoured to be able to ride and look after him.”

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    Natalie is now hoping to give a BE100 a go next year.

    “The bigger you go, the better he jumps,” she added.

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