“Louie” became ill on Sunday (13 March) and was referred to a vet hospital but the 15-year-old gelding’s condition worsened.
Sophie told H&H the loss had been a “massive shock”.
“When I was told Louie was going into hospital I was already thinking about how to rehab him. I didn’t think things would go the way they did,” she said.
“He was such a character, everyone on the yard loved him. I do like my horses that are a bit cheeky, but he took his cheekiness to extremes.”
Sophie bought Louie from Olivia Pack in August 2019, and the pair were selected for the Tokyo Paralympics, but weeks before the Games he was ruled out owing to a veterinary issue.
“When I first tried Louie I was on holiday in Newquay and found his advert online and decided to go and see him,” she said.
“Olivia was riding him and I parked up beside the arena in my wheelchair. There was another horse in the school who freaked out at my wheelchair but Louie was like, ‘Yeah, and…?’ – and that’s the type of temperament I need in a horse.”
Sophie described Louie as an “elephant scared of a mouse” at times and said he did have the tendency to “spook at Pokemon”, but the pair had a good connection and a highlight was scoring plus 80% in a freestyle test in the run-up to Tokyo.
“I hadn’t broken the 80% barrier since 2016, so doing that really showed Louie’s potential. I was really sad not to go to Tokyo to showcase what his talent could be,” she said.
“It feels bittersweet that I never got to show off his full potential but he really taught me so much, in terms of how to ride a slightly spooky horse and how to get the most out of a horse. He wasn’t the sassiest, but he was good, solid and dependable, so it was up to me to squeeze every mark out. He really did wonders for my riding.”
Olivia owned Louie for seven years before selling him to Sophie. The pair competed up to medium level, and competed at the British Dressage Winter Championships at elementary in 2019.
Olivia told H&H she had to sell Louie after putting a deposit down on a house but got a surprise when Sophie’s assistant emailed her.
“I met Sophie at the nationals in 2012 just after the Paralympics and had my photo taken with her and remember being a complete fan girl. So when her assistant contacted me about Louie I actually thought it was a scam at first,” she said.
“Sophie tried Louie, and she wanted to see him again but I was working shifts at the time and said ‘I trust him enough, so if you want to go up and treat him as your own that’s absolutely fine’. She spent a couple of days with him, and said he was great. He had never had a para rider on him and he just took everything in his stride.”
Olivia said when she heard Sophie and Louie had qualified for Tokyo she “burst out crying”.
“I was so proud,” she said. “When I first got him I couldn’t even walk around off the lunge on him, and then he qualified for the Paralympics. It was just crazy.”
Olivia said she has had a difficult few weeks after her grandfather recently died, then Sophie contacted her to tell her about Louie.
“My grandad used to come to all of my competitions with Louie, he was so proud of us. It’s comforting knowing they are up there together now,” she said. “I know Louie can rest peacefully knowing he made an impact on so many people.”
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