From Royal Ascot winner to para dressage star: meet remarkable ex-racehorse Namibian

  • A former Royal Ascot winner has qualified for national para dressage championships for the second time in two years after a change of career.

    Namibian won the Queen’s Vase — the first and only Classic he contested — at the 2011 Royal Ascot for trainer Mark Johnston.

    He also won the Group Three Gordon Stakes at Goodwood the same year and during his four-year racing career his winnings totalled more than £69,000.

    The 17.2hh son of Cape Cross is now being partnered by British para dressage rider Julie Frizzell, and the pair have qualified for the Para Dressage Winter Championships at Vale View, Leics, in March in just three outings.


    Julie Frizzell and Namibian. Photo by George Frizzell

    “He is a proper little diva but I have never, ever felt unsafe on him,” Julie told H&H.

    “For a horse that has come out of racing who has either done a walk or a gallop, just to be as switched on as he is [is brilliant].

    “He is a bit of an impatient learner, there is a sensitivity in teaching him things, but once he has got it, he has it.

    “He just takes to everything really easily.”

    Julie, a trainer and grade IV rider, has twice won Para Winter Dressage Championship titles and was placed the top three of the home CPEDI2* for the past three years.

    She explained it seemed “a bit like fate” that she came across “Barney”.

    Julie served in the RAF for 20 years, rising to the rank of wing commander, before retiring on medical grounds in 2008.

    Her wrist was crushed in a fall while riding on an Army course at the Defence Animal Centre and after surgery failed to repair the damage, her ulna (main forearm bone) was removed altogether in 2012.

    Last year Julie was at a clinic in Brighton and one of the clients was riding a horse who she described as “sharp in a good way”.

    It transpired the horse was from the Godolphin Rehoming centre, so Julie went online and got in contact with the centre.

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    The next week Julie visited the rehoming base near Ely, where manager Jo Brisland suggested Barney might suit.

    “When I realised his full background I just thought how fortunate I am,” said Julie.

    She added he is a “massive character” and enjoys pinching bobble hats off people’s heads.

    “I am very lucky to have him,” said Julie.

    “I think the work Godolphin has done in that moral responsibility, in that Sheikh Mohammed believes in horses that have given him their lives he wants to give them theirs, is fantastic.”

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