‘I prayed night after night – but didn’t get my miracle’ Olympic contender retires

  • Amanda Derbyshire has paid tribute to her great showjumping partner Roulette BH, known as Bertie, who has been retired 15 months after being seriously injured in a fall in the Nations Cup at Hickstead.

    “I can finally talk about him now without breaking down, but it’s taken a long time. I cried for a year every time I thought about him,” Amanda told H&H. “I would literally give anything to have him back — I prayed night after night — but I can’t.

    “Roulette was my Olympic horse – I had no doubt about it and neither did anyone else because he had every bit of talent and every component you need for a championship horse. I think that was what was so heartbreaking, because I knew that he was my shot. How do you ever find that again?”

    The 11-year-old Moschino gelding, owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC, tore leg ligaments and suffered a fracture of his knee in the incident at the water jump during the pathfinder pair’s round for the British team in July 2019.

    Roulette was treated first by Sussex Equine Hospital vets, then taken to Newmarket, where he stayed for three months.

    “He then spent around four months at a rehab facility called Ivy Lodge – they did a brilliant job,” said Amanda of the Gloucestershire rehabilitation and pre-training establishment run by Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire and his wife Lauren.

    Treatment throughout his recuperation came from Amanda’s “fantastic” vet Christiana Ober.

    “We just prayed and hoped that it would heal, but we all knew that Bertie needed a miracle to make a full recovery, so I can’t thank the Gochman family enough for all they did in making sure he had access to five-star veterinary treatment and to Roulette’s groom Lesley Veall, too — she stayed with him in Newmarket, then went to live at Ivy Lodge for a few weeks to help settle him in, so he had a familiar face during that traumatic time.

    “It’s also thanks to the Gochman family that I was fortunate enough to have Luibanta BH, who was to be my partner at the Europeans a month later, where we won a team medal. I was so lucky to have another chance to keep going and continue doing what I love, not everyone has that opportunity and I’ll be for ever grateful for that.”

    After his recuperation at Ivy Lodge, Roulette rejoined Amanda at her base in Florida.

    “We started riding him and he was back in full work for four months,” Amanda said. “The vets then did a full anaesthetic MRI with the high-detail imaging to see if it was safe to start jumping him. Unfortunately I didn’t get my miracle – all the injuries had healed, except for the torn ligaments, which meant it wasn’t safe for him, or me, to start jumping him again. So even though he was completely sound, the risk of a catastrophic injury was too high and I couldn’t put him, or anyone, through that again – I couldn’t have my heart broken twice.”

    The decision was made to retire Bertie and he recently arrived at Spring Ledge in Virginia, USA, a full retirement facility run by Sloane Coles and he’s now “as happy as can be” enjoying his new life out in the field alongside a couple of other old grand prix horses.

    “He’s totally sound so we could have kept him at home as a pet, but he’d already done that for six months so I thought he deserved his chance to be a normal horse,” Amanda said. “I didn’t know how he’d take to retirement as he’s a special character, but he’s adapted well and he can happily spend the rest of his life there, so that’s all we can ask.”

    Amanda and Roulette BH enjoyed a brilliant partnership in their competitive year together and had been hotly tipped for championship medals, including at the Tokyo Games. The gelding had formerly been owned by Emma Ziff and produced very successfully in Great Britain by Phillip Miller and Ben Walker before Amanda took the reins in the spring of 2018. The pair finished third in the King George V Gold Cup at the Royal International and represented Great Britain in Dublin and at the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, as well as securing top placings in grands prix and World Cup qualifiers.

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    “He was double clear in about six good grands prix in a row ,” said Amanda. “I won the Saturday grand prix in Devon [Pennsylvania] on him, the Saturday three-star grand prix in Wellington [Florida] which was my first grand prix win at that level, then followed up by finishing second in the four-star grand prix at Upperville. They were just a few weeks apart, with all the lights and atmosphere, so pretty special.

    “Barcelona also stands out for me when he jumped a clear round for Team GB, because it was one of his first team events and he was absolutely brilliant that night.

    “He was just allergic to knocking the jumps down and he was so fast against the clock . I will always feel lucky to have so many successful memories with Bertie and cherish the fact that I was a small part of this special horse’s life.”

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