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Para rider’s competition success on mare who fought back from the brink of death

A grade II para rider who came second in a regional dressage final on a mare who fought back from a full hysterectomy and emergency bowel surgery would like others to know “there is always hope”.

Deborah Wicks’s Irish mare Hope and Anchor spent nearly two months in intensive care four years ago but pulled through “thanks to her spirit”. She and Deborah finished less than half a per cent behind the winner of their British Dressage (BD) MyQuest regional final last month.

Deborah told H&H she bought Hope as a just-backed five-year-old, five years ago. The following year, Hope began to show signs something was badly wrong.

“She was collapsing all over the place,” Deborah said. “She was having terrible sweats; it looked as though she was trying to give birth, over and over again.

“Our brilliant vets at Nantwich said ‘we’re going up to Leahurst hospital’, and a vet there said ‘I’ve seen that before’.”

Hope was suffering from mucometra, an accumulation of fluid in the uterus.

“It was about to break open,” Deborah said. “She had to have an emergency hysterectomy but although that went well, she wasn’t in ideal condition as she’d lost muscle from being out of work while she was ill, and put on weight. The scar burst open and she had to have emergency bowel surgery.”

Hope was in intensive care from early December to late January, and she now has a two-inch band of scar tissue from two inches behind her girth to her teats.

“When she came home, she was in a corset and cradle,” Deborah said. “We almost lost her more times than you can shake a stick at; she teetered on the brink of death more times than I can remember.

“At one point, the vet was in her stable for 24 hours but they did it; they pulled her through. She’s testament to how our vets work — but they said the reason she pulled through is because of her own strength of spirit.”

Deborah said she had stopped competing as she disliked it. But her trainers Emma Wooliscroft and Dianne Breeze encouraged her, and she thought Hope could do it.

“When I could ride her again, I thought ‘I’m going to do it’,” she said.

Deborah did not know about Quest when she entered her qualifying classes, but was emailed to say she had qualified for the regional final. She finds para classes thin on the ground and can only walk and trot, owing to serious complications from injuries suffered as a child in a riding fall, so often enters able-bodied intro classes.

“When I trot up the centre line, whether it’s Quest or normal BD, I feel so proud,” she said. “My friends laugh at me because I’m beaming, and once I lost two marks because I was so busy thinking ‘just look at my horse’, but I’m just so proud of her.

“We’ve done 13 competitions, some online, and she’s come first or second in every one, she’s extraordinary.”

Deborah added that she hopes Hope’s story may bring hope to others.

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“With horses, you get a lot of knock-backs, and you have to keep faith,” she said.

“I’m grateful beyond words, so grateful to this mare. I never thought I could ride like I am, and she’s opened more doors for me than I ever thought possible.

“There is always hope; look ahead and you will be surprised by what can happen.”

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