Shire mare orphaned at birth overcomes twisted leg and major surgery to qualify for HOYS

  • A Shire mare who was orphaned when she was hours old, and bottle-fed every two hours for months with a sheep called Rodger as a friend, has overcome a twisted leg and major surgery to qualify for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    Sarah Warburton’s Hillmoor Lucky Lady’s dam Hillmoor Double Trouble had to be put down owing to a prolapsed uterus, and it was thought Lucky might not survive either.

    “The vet came out and it was thought the kindest thing might be to put her to sleep,” Sarah told H&H. “I said: ‘You’re not shooting her’, thinking if she didn’t live, at least I’d tried. I had to give her that chance.”

    Lucky had been born early in the year and there were no surrogate mares available so Sarah bottle-fed the filly every two hours for months.

    “It was a funny time!” Sarah said. “I used to have to have babysitters if I went out, and after nights out, I’d go back and feed her. She had a big teddy bear with her for a while, to cuddle up to, then one day we were bringing the sheep in and we had one called Rodger who was really friendly — they lived together for months.

    “I’m not sure if Lucky knew whether she was a sheep, a horse or a human, and I’m not sure if Rodger knew either.”

    Sarah estimates she spent £2,000-£3,000 on milk for Lucky, then vets dropped another bombshell.

    “She’s the most expensive horse I’ve ever had, even though I didn’t pay anything for her!” Sarah said. “When she was four months old, we found out she had an umbilical hernia and needed an operation.”

    Terrified the filly would not survive the surgery, Sarah waited until she was three, two years ago, with vets’ approval.

    The operation was a success and Lucky made a full recovery, and when she was old enough, she was backed and Sarah started riding her.

    “Everyone said she wasn’t good enough to do what I wanted to do, but the more people said that, the more I thought ‘She’s going to HOYS’,” Sarah said.

    “This year, we’ve done six shows, and at the sixth one she did it.”

    On 14 August at Stoneleigh, Lucky and Sarah qualified for the British ridden heavy horse championship.

    “She made all my dreams come true,” Sarah said. “I’ve had so many ponies and horses but she’s my life. Bottle-feeding her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but also the most rewarding, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

    “She had a twisted fetlock when she was born too; her foot faced the wrong way, and the vet said we should Tubigrip it, and it did straighten itself out. She also suffers badly with sweet itch but Snuggy Hoods sent me some gear and we’ve never looked back. I’m very lucky, hence her name.”

    Sarah said she is looking forward to HOYS.

    “I can’t wait,” she said. “It would be great to get a result there, but it’s amazing just to qualify. I can’t wait to trot round that big arena and show off my orphan foal who everyone said wasn’t good enough.”

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