A woman has had an emotional reunion with the horse she saved from the meat wagon more than 20 years ago, thanks to the power of social media.
Alison Stacey bought Max from Henley-in-Arden market as a foal with the last £40 she had in her pocket — but was heartbroken when she was forced to sell him five-and-a-half years later.
“I’d gone to have a look round with my then-partner and we had no intention of buying anything, but then this poorly little chap came over and asked for a fuss,” Alison told H&H.
“The dealer said he was about to sell him for meat for £35, so I gave him £40. We had to go to the tack stall and ask them if they’d give us a headcollar, and then we had to go round the lorries looking for someone who would give us a lift home as a gesture of goodwill.”
A vet estimated Max to be about four months old and he was riddled with worms and lice.
“We’d thought he was six months old but he must have been taken off his mother early,” said Alison, who brought Max home in 1997. “He had sores around his neck, which the vet thought was where he’d been trying to get through fencing to grass.
“I nursed him back to health and later broke him in — we were inseparable but after five-and-a-half years I’d taken out a mortgage with my partner and I was struggling to afford him.”
Alison sold Max to someone who promised to give her first refusal if she ever wanted to sell him, but months later, Alison went back to the yard to see him and found they had moved on.
“I didn’t even get to say goodbye,” she said. “I heard she’d sold him on but I couldn’t get in touch with her.”
Alison went on to have three children and later split from her partner but through all the years, the 14.3hh chestnut was never far from her mind — she had even kept the first tooth he lost.
“When I first lost touch there was no Facebook, and as the years went on I’d put off trying to find him as I didn’t want to hear bad news,” Alison said. “I thought ‘if I found out he’s died I’ll blame myself’ — but after toying with the idea for a while, I decided to post on the local show centres’ pages on Facebook. Within just 20 minutes I was in touch with his owner.”
Max, now 22, had been sold to a riding school but was later bought by Rebecca Collins, who lived just 20 minutes away from Alison.
“I started chatting to her and I was able to fill in some blanks in his history and then she said ‘why don’t you come down and see him?’ and I just cried and cried,” said Alison.
The cheeky Shetland welcomed The Queen to Balmoral for the start of her annual summer holiday
‘I’ve never seen an animal love what he was doing so much’
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
“I took the children down to see him and I burst into tears, it was so emotional. He hadn’t changed a bit.”
Not long after Alison saw Max again, he had to have surgery for an abscess, linked to when he had been gelded years before.
“They thought it might be cancerous at first and he had to have a huge op, we didn’t know if he’d make it and we’d only been back in touch a few months,” she said. “Thankfully he pulled through and my children are now learning to ride on him — he really looks after them.”
Alison said that she was grateful the horse had also brought her together with Rebecca and her mum, who are “the nicest people”.
“Max 1milllion per cent landed on his feet with them,” she added. “The whole thing has been like a love story — finding him again has picked me up after all I have been through and I am so happy to be part of his life again.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.