Owners’ heartbreak as talented young show hunter dies of toxic shock

A successful young lightweight show hunter has been put to sleep age six after suffering from toxic shock.

Raine and Gary Hathern’s Littletree Whirlwind (Wilbur) was ridden for the duration of his career by Freya Metters, who took him from a novice to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) level.

Raine and Gary bought Wilbur as an unbacked three-year-old from Astrid Bolton.

Last term, Wilbur and Freya notched up an impressive tally which included sports horse champion at Yorkshire Sports Horse and champion sports horse at the SHB (GB) national hunter championship show.

The pair also qualified for HOYS at Cheshire County and were placed seventh in the open lightweights at the RIHS final.

“He was a massive character and a real yard favourite,” said Raine. “He had such a promising career, being placed at both major championships as a five-year-old. In the last two months he had shown some uncharacteristic behaviour which turned out to be an underlying problem. Sadly, he couldn’t be saved.”

Continues below…


‘Her heart made her’: rider pays tribute to four-star mare

The eventer has said goodbye to her European Championships partner, who would ‘never give up’


“He was an absolutely beautiful ride and made me smile every time I rode him,” added Freya.

On a Facebook tribute, Freya wrote: “He was super special in more ways than one, not only giving me my first ride at HOYS but also giving me my first placings at both HOYS and the RIHS. Everyone who knows me knows how much this boy meant to me, we are all heartbroken and can’t quite believe it.”

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday. In the current issue (dated 18 July) you can find out about the history of the prestigious Royal International Horse Show supreme championship and learn how some of showing’s finest have reigned victorious in the Hickstead main arena. And our full reports from this year’s show will be in the new issue of the magazine, on sale Thursday 1 August.