Meet Graham Hartley and Hilton Moon God

  • When and how did you get the ride on Hilton Moon God?

    “My girlfriend Liz bought Moonie in 1989, but I didn’t take over the ride until Liz injured her ankle in 1993. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d end up as a successful endurance rider, I’d have laughed.”

    What impressed you about him initially?

    “Nothing! I thought he looked like a mule. But I knew nothing about horses and Liz wanted him, so I was happy to go along with it.

    “At first I could tell he didn’t like me, but he appealed because he had guts, spirit and knew his own mind – a difficult horse with a challenge!”

    What’s Moonie’s breeding?

    “He’s a 15hh 12-year-old grey pure bred Arab gelding,by Nazim out of Moon Goddess, who’s by Silver Scenario.”

    What’s he like to ride?

    “Because he’s so unpredictable, I never really know what he’s going to do and that makes him fun to ride. After a while he switches off and relaxes, which gives the impression he’s tired or being lazy, but he’s really flying.”

    What makes him a good endurance horse?

    “His guts, without doubt. He’s tough and tries hard, but knows when he¨s done well.”

    Havethere been any disappointments?

    “Failing to complete the distance at the European Championships.

    “We’d completed 97 miles in 14 hours but Moonie was vetted out for being slightly stiff. We were unlucky but it doesn’t matter. So many things can and do go wrong in this sport and you must stay positive, otherwise you’d give up.”

    Has he suffered any serious injuries?

    “He’s suffered from Azoturia since he was six. The Animal Health Trust studied him for two years and said that although we were doing all the right things, they didn’t know why he was tying up.”

    What’s his exercise regime like at home?

    “Liz sorts all that out! He’s started off lightly in December and walks for half an hour, five nights a week, during January. This is built up so that by February he’s walking for an hour to an hour-and-a-half a day, with five minutes’ worth of trotting.”At the moment, he walks five miles on Mondays, eight miles with a bit of trot on Tuesdays and five miles with increased trotting on Wednesdays. He has Thursdays and Fridays off. At weekends, he does a 10-mile race on Saturday and a 20-25-mile race on Sunday.”

    How do you warm him up at a competition?

    “I’m paranoid about Azoturia when I’m warming him up so we’re careful. I get on him three-quarters of an hour to an hour before the start and walk, trot and canter him so he’s really warm.”

    Do you think he¨s as talented as the sport’s top horses?

    “I think he’s something special, but then I’m biased. As far as I’m concerned, he’s as good as any horse on his day. Even though I know he can’t beat everyone, I still believe he can. Moonie’s got loads of potential, his best is tocome in the next few years.”

    What’s his feeding programme like?

    “From March to June he has no concentrates or rich grass because of his Azoturia. He’s fed hay and lots of Hilton Herbs and Dengie supplements: Hilton Response, Reflex, Linseed and Fenugreek and Seaweed and Rosehip; Dengie Classic and Alfa-A. He also gets half a pint of soya oil every day. Other times he’s fed naked oats.”

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