Laura Collett has entered for Gatcombe (1) on Sunday 25 March on the talented but fragile three-star horse Billy Bounce.
The 13-year-old grey, who belongs to Esther Lewis, Jo Jones and Serena Langlands, was one of the most admired young horses in the country as he came up through the grades with Chris King, who has now given up eventing. The horse was chosen as one to watch by William Fox-Pitt when he guest-edited H&H in 2014 and won a CIC2* section at Barbury in 2013.
Billy Bounce missed the 2015 season with a foot injury and then competed with 2016 in Kitty King. After another injury, he went to Laura Collett’s yard to be rehabilitated because Chris’ wife Zanie, who knew the horse well, works for Laura.
“He was pretty much written off and we were bringing him back to be a hack for his part-owner, Jo Jones,” Laura told H&H. “He’s been hacking for over a year, then in December or January he started to lose a bit of topline, so the owners asked if I would school him a couple of times a week to keep him in shape. He felt amazing and touch wood hasn’t had any problems, so the vet said we could crack on and keep doing a bit more each time and see how we get on.”
Laura had ridden Billy Bounce previously as she was based in the same yard as Chris when he was competing the horse.
“I rode him when Chris was away or busy, so I had jumped him three or four times before this winter and cantered him,” she said. “He’s an absolute delight to ride, a really kind horse. He’s a bit full of himself at the moment, he’s pleased to be doing things again.”
Laura added that a showjumping outing last weekend was the first time she had taken Billy Bounce anywhere and she has only entered him for Gatcombe so far, in the open intermediate.
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“We’re taking it one day at a time and we’re all pinching ourselves as we can’t quite believe it [that he is staying sound],” she said. “Even to take him out showjumping was a bonus, so we will take it one step at a time and see what happens. Hopefully we can come back from Gatcombe in one piece and see where we go after that.”
First reports of the eventing season plus opinion from Harry Meade in H&H this week (issue dated 15 March).