‘There were four of us in the arena!’ Pregnant partners bow out on a high with national qualification

  • A pregnant rider who qualified her pregnant homebred mare for the Petplan Equine Summer Area Festival Championships joked “I don’t know if you’re allowed to have four of you in the arena at once!”

    Full-time equine vet Sam Cutts and her own Piccola Diavola came second in the inter I freestyle and inter I, at Field House and Onley equestrian centres, on 16 and 19 August respectively.

    Sam is 27 weeks’ pregnant and “Holly” 15, so neither will compete at the finals in October, but Sam told H&H the area festival was “something to aim for”, for both of them. Holly, the daughter of Piccola Star who Sam rode on the British junior eventing team and to four-star (now five-star) level, has evented to four-star level but was injured last year.

    Sam said Holly would not have returned to high-level eventing, so “we’ve had a bit of fun doing dressage”, and last week’s events were to be her last before she retired to become a broodmare.

    “I was in floods of tears by the final halt,” she said. “The judge probably wondered what was going on as it was neither that exceptional a test nor that bad, but she and I had done the best we could do, and that’s all you can do.

    “She’s got me to four-star eventing and inter I dressage; she owes me nothing, and I look forward to riding her children.”

    The cut-off date for competing pregnant mares, whether at Badminton or a preliminary dressage test, is four months, and Sam explained that at Holly’s stage, the foetus is very small; as horses are prey animals, they do not grow as much, as soon, in pregnancy as humans do. Exercise is also as good for pregnant mares as it is for humans, as long as the level or type of work is not changed or intensified.

    “Each horse is individual and you have to take each day as it comes,” Sam added. “Holly and I know each other inside out and if she’d thought ‘I don’t want to do this’, I would have stopped. Her welfare is my absolute priority and to be able to do this was a bonus.”

    Sam, who already has a two-year-old daughter, has also now stopped riding for the duration of her pregnancy.

    “There are three extended trots in that test and by the end of the last one, I’d probably had enough!” she said. “I don’t know if you’re allowed to have four of you in the arena; it’s not internal assistance, but it’s internal something or other!”

    Sam added that the mare, whose nickname is Princess Holly, is “opinionated” in the stable.

    “She likes her own space and organises life according to her but as soon as you get on board, she couldn’t try harder,” she said.

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