‘It was horrendous’: top eventer recovers from serious injury to become broodmare

  • Eventer Hollywood Dancer, who was placed at four-star, has made a remarkable recovery from a serious injury and will be put in foal this year.

    Rider Dani Evans explained that “Holly” was out on grass livery following a small injury – “a tiny niggle” – in the spring of last year when she suffered a freak accident in the field.

    “I had a call to say I needed to get there quickly and when I saw her it was quite a shock to see the damage,” Dani told H&H. “We think something had gone along her ribcage and side, so there was a massive laceration and it had pierced a lung. It was quite horrendous to see – and hear because it had gone into the lung.”

    “We had a make a decision [on whether to put her down] and it wasn’t easy standing in a muddy field on top of a hill. She is owned by Ann Butler, an incredible lady who has been an owner with me for about 15 years. She was on holiday and I couldn’t get hold of her for what seemed like hours, but was probably only really 10 minutes.”

    Ann said to Dani to follow the vets’ guidance, and although it was clear the then 11-year-old mare’s ridden career was over, the vets felt she could be saved.

    “You couldn’t have a better broodmare, so it was worth going through the process, although she went through a lot of complications. She’s well now and having a nice life so it completely proves it was the right decision, but it was a long slow process,” said Dani.

    Holly spent four months in a veterinary hospital and Dani paid tribute to B&W Equine Vets, especially Dicky Hepburn, and Lizzie Kopec, a Bristol vet student who kept a horse at Dani’s yard and who was working at the vets.

    “She was very helpful with communication and knowing Holly,” she said.

    Holly then went for rehabilitation at Sarah George’s Team Green Horses.

    Dani said: “What Sarah did was amazing – she took a horse who looked quite thin and unwell and within weeks had her looking well with a shiny coat. Holly was also very lucky to have an owner like Ann, and I can’t thank her enough for sticking with it. It was lovely to see an owner prove how much the horses mean to them – not the weekends away and results, but the horse becoming part of the family.”

    Hollywood Dancer returned to Dani’s yard in December and is now going out in the field during the day and staying in at night.

    Dani started a small breeding programme last year and will now work with Ann to breed from Holly. The aim is to do this as a business and sell her offspring, but Ann will keep one herself to event. They plan to put her in foal this spring and they may also do an embryo transfer.

    Hollywood Dancer is by the Contender grandson Dantos out of a mare by Numero Uno. In her eventing career she won 10 times, including being British five-year-old champion and taking international classes at CCI* (now CCI2*-L) and CCI3*-L, and finished fifth at Chatsworth and 10th at Bramham and Burnham Market at CCI4*-S level.

    “I want to find a stallion that makes up for the small things she lacks so I’m asking lots of knowledgeable people,” says Dani, who is considering Amira Z or Diamant De Semilly.

    “She does lack blood but I don’t want to go to something too thoroughbred initially as I want something that can jump and I want to see how well her offspring keep her jump. She was not a horse to feel tired, but we never got the chance to see if she would be blood enough to do it at the top level.

    “She has an amazing brain so it doesn’t matter if the sire is a bit sharper. We are fortunate she has the best temperament and attitude to work; she’s been a winner throughout her career and I wouldn’t mind another 10 Hollys in my stable.”

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