Rescue pony fulfils owner’s Hickstead dream

  • A pony who was taken in by the RSPCA after he was abandoned as a yearling has competed at his first championship.

    Storm was rescued from a field along with a number of other ponies in 2009 and it took him a year to recover physically from his difficult start in life.

    But the nine-year-old coloured gelding has beaten the odds to enjoy a new life to compete at the Dressage at Hickstead South East Championships on 19 May.

    “I spent 15 years supporting my daughter with her horses and when she went off to university I thought I should find myself a pony,” Jo told H&H.

    “My friend was looking after him at the time and said ‘come and have a look’. He wasn’t what I was looking for, but I decided to take him on.”

    Jo added that Storm was rising two at the time and rather an “ugly duckling”, who has the personality of a “17hh chestnut mare inside the body of a 14hh skewbald gelding”.

    With the help of her daughter, trainers and Jason Webb clinics, she started to bring him on.

    Jo and Storm joined the Rother Valley Riding Club’s “building rider confidence” group with the aim of enjoying some grassroots-level dressage.

    “They have been fantastic with Storm, they hold clinics and everything is super low-key, with sympathetic instructors and everyone is very supportive,” said Jo.

    The pair started at intro, topping the members’ league table at the club last year, then moving up to prelim and qualifying for the Hickstead finals.

    “My initial response was ‘obviously I’m not going’,” said Jo.

    “But my daughter said ‘don’t be silly — be proud, take Storm out and show him off.”

    The pair have also enjoyed success at British Dressage’s My Quest classes, achieving plus-73% scores, which gave them the confidence to make the trip to Hickstead.

    I was just delighted with him, he stayed with me for the whole test and was super-reactive,” said Jo, who survived a couple of spooks to achieve a score of 62.2% with the pony.

    “We have worked so hard to be able to get there and now we are going to be able to go forwards from it.”

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    Jo also thanked her trainer Anna Levy for her help.

    “It breaks my heart [to hear of horses being abandoned], people are always really surprised about his start in life, they think I paid money for him,” said Jo, adding that “endless patience” has been the key to Storm.

    “I feel like I’m the lucky one [to have found him], it has always been a dream to ride at Hickstead and I never thought I would get there, let alone on a 14hh rescue pony.”

    Jo, a teaching assistant, added it has been rather a role reversal from supporting her daughter for so many years.

    “It is a positive change though,” said Jo. “I get to see what it was like from her point of view and she gets to see it from mine!”

    Jo added that she would encourage those with the right experience and time to consider rehoming when looking for their next horse.

    “It is not for the inexperienced, but if you have the knowledge, a big heart and a lot of time, give it a go,” she said.

    Don’t miss your chance to take part in the inaugural Horse & Hound Festival of Dressage, an unaffiliated show for all held at Sheepgate Equestrian (20 – 22 July 2018) with sections from intro to medium as well as music classes.

    This week’s edition of Horse & Hound (17 May) features a full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action. We go behind the scenes with the Household Cavalry as they prepare for the royal wedding, plus check out our interview with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy.

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