During a jump-off at Aachen last year, Yuri Mansur and his superstar gelding Vitiki suffered a horror fall.
The much-loved chestnut was taken away in a horse ambulance and X-rays revealed a broken off-fore pastern, which was quickly operated on and put in a cast. The future looked uncertain.
Fast-forward 14 months and in a 1.20m class at a show St Tropez last week, the pair made their competitive reappearance, jumping two clear rounds. If anything, the Brazilian rider said, “he feels even better than before”.
Yuri, 40, told H&H about this miraculous road to recovery, which was led by two renowned vets — Jack Snyder, who performed the surgery after the accident, and Marcello Servos.
“At first, the prognosis was that Vitiki would be able to walk really well afterwards, but to come back in to the sport would be hard because this kind of injury is normally very complicated,” explained Yuri about the events in July last year.
“But Jack Snyder did an unbelievable job and, because Vitiki is such a quiet horse — really intelligent — he didn’t do anything stupid during those early days of healing.”
Vitiki wore a cast on the injured leg for the first month of his recovery.
“The only problem we had along the way was that the skin got really bad underneath, so we had to take the cast off earlier than it should have been — we had no other option,” Yuri told H&H. “But it was OK. He went through all this with no infection, no fever, no bad moments.”
At the start of this year, the gelding was ready to start walking in hand and progress was good until Yuri trotted him up.
“That was a disaster — he was completely lame. My heart sank,” said Yuri. “But what’s been funny about this horse is that not for one second did we — me, my wife, my family — stop believing that he would fully recover. It sounds crazy, but we always knew he was going to come back to the top level. The reality has been much tougher, of course, but we got through it.”
January proved a difficult time as, clearly on the mend, Vitiki started to “get a bit stupid” while being hand-walked.
“I decided, even though the vet said it was risky, that I would start walking him with the saddle on,” said Yuri. “After that he was really good, really quiet again. He’s a blood horse but that’s what I find unbelievable about him — it’s like he understood what was going on, that he had to stay quiet and knew what he had to do to get better.”
By June, the time had come to pop Vitiki over a small fence at home.
“That was unbelievable,” said Yuri, who has shared their progress on Instagram.
Last week’s competitive return over a couple of 1.20m tracks was a monumental moment for the Brazilian, not least because he also brought back his other top mare Babylotte, who had been out of action with a tendon injury.
‘He is feeling really good — hot as hell — and I’m really looking forward to competing him’
The eventer is aiming to ride at Luhmühlen and Burghley this season, having recovered from a badly broken leg
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“It was an emotional day,” said Yuri. “To have this moment once again is an amazing feeling and the way Vitiki is jumping is unbelievable.
“The last time Vitiki went to a show, he broke his leg, so I was a bit scared what his reaction would be going back in the ring but straight away, to the first fence, he felt exactly as before. I said to my vets that to start jumping him over 1.20m again was a really small step, but when you look back to where we were just one year ago, it’s a giant step.
“It also makes you realize that this sport is all about the horses — the difference having these two back is just wow!”
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics less than a year away, could the next chapter of Vitiki’s story provide the fairytale ending?
“That’s the goal for both Vitiki and Babylotte — if Vitiki could make it there, it really would be the most amazing story,” Yuri told H&H. “I know it may not be realistic, but I really believe it could happen.”
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