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Tears as Thug the €1 showjumper saved from slaughter reunited with former rider

An unruly 128cm stallion who was saved from being slaughtered for meat at the price of one euro has been reunited with his former rider.

Now a gelding, Elith, or Thug to his friends, has been owned by the Sanderson family for four years, taking his young rider Annabell Sanderson to shows including Hickstead and the British Showjumping (BS) national championships.

Then BS emailed the family to say his previous rider had been in touch.

“It’s quite a heart-warming story,” Jo Sanderson told H&H. “They’d been searching for him for years and were overwhelmed to have found him.”

Jo explained that Thug had been destined for meat in Belgium, where he was born.

“He was a stallion, and quite unruly, and he, his mum and sister were going for meat but this trainer bought all three of them, and paid €1 for Thug,” she said.

“The girl who got in touch with us, Alexia, used to ride him for the trainer but one day she went to ride him and he’d been sold. They spent three years looking for him, and they found him with us.”

Thug went to homes in France and Holland, then was bought by a family called the Trueloves, who gave him his stable name.

“He has lived up to it a bit; he will take you for a walk!” Jo said. “It just stuck, although he is a lovely, lovely pony.”

Having kept in touch with the Sandersons, Alexia came to the UK to visit this month.

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“There were lots of tears,” Jo said. “Alexia’s a lovely girl and he definitely recognised her; they used to play a game where she kissed his nose and he went straight up to her to do it, which he’s never done with us.”

Alexia plans keep in touch with the Sandersons, and Thug, while the pony himself is now jumping with Annabell’s younger brother George.

“It’s lovely to have found out more about him, and to meet Alexia,” Jo said. “She’s going to be in the police; she said ‘I’m a detective, so I knew I’d find him!’”

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