‘I’ve really missed him’: young horse who lost eye makes winning competition return

  • A promising young dressage stallion who had to have his right eye removed owing to uveitis has made a winning return to competition after nine months off.

    Grand prix dressage rider Fenella Quinn and her mother Jacqui Ross bought Daily Diamond son Mambo Chachacha at six weeks old at an auction in the Netherlands in 2017. He remained abroad while he grew up and was backed, then moved to Fenella’s Aberdeen-base to continue his education.

    “At the auction it was like Mambo picked us. We had planned on bidding on him anyway, but he left his mum and came trotting directly to our table and I remember the auctioneer saying ‘It looks like he wants to go home with you’,” Fenella told H&H.

    “When he came home aged three he was just perfection from day one. I couldn’t believe how easy he was and how balanced. He was just a dream in every way.”

    Last year Fenella campaigned Mambo in the British Dressage young horse series and the pair qualified for the semi-final at Hartpury, where they were 16th in the four-year-old class.

    “After we got back from the semi-finals everything started to go wrong,” said Fenella.

    “Mambo got uveitis quite severely and quite quickly. Immediately we got our vets, Ardene House Equine Vets, and they referred us to Ben Blaclock, an ophthalmologist at the Royal Dick Vet in Edinburgh. We went through treatment plans and Mambo was put on quite aggressive treatment. Over the next few months it would clear up but then flare up again and it was really hard to keep on top of.”

    In September Mambo was fitted with a special implant behind his eye in the hope this would get on top of the uveitis.

    “We thought this would be the last port of call, but unfortunately for us we were one of the eight per cent of cases where it didn’t work. The uveitis came back so aggressively and the ophthalmologist said he had never seen a case as aggressive as Mambo’s,” said Fenella.

    “We were treating him with eye drops eight times a day, he was off work because he was sore, and he couldn’t go in the field because we had to try to keep everything dark.”

    Fenella said despite continued treatment and trips to the vets in Edinburgh, it was decided that the “kindest thing to do” was to remove Mambo’s eye.

    “It was really difficult and a horrible decision to have to make when he’s so young and so talented. You have no idea how they are going to adapt – he’s such a sweetheart but you wonder if they will change, or become spooky and nervous. You just don’t know how they’re going to take it, but there really was no option and we couldn’t stand to see him struggling,” she said.

    “The operation took place in November and then we began the healing process of trying to get him used to life without an eye.”

    Fenella said throughout the treatment and following the operation Mambo has been a “sweetheart” and “adapted incredibly well”.

    Mambo pictured following his eye removal. Credit: Rachel Murray Brand Photography

    “He’s been unbelievable the whole way through. He’s never been difficult, and he’s taken to only having one eye so well. He had nine months off work overall but it’s like he’s never been off,” she said.

    “To start with we wouldn’t approach him from the right side and we talk to him a lot so he always knows where you are. When I get on I always start on the right rein first so his left eye can see the wall, and give him a chance to get his bearings.”

    Fenella – who has a string of horses from youngsters up to grand prix level – has high hopes for Mambo and believes he could be a grand prix horse in future. On 13 August he returned to competition for the first time since and won both his novice classes on scores of 70.32% and 71.88% at Tillyoch Equestrian.

    “I didn’t really know what to expect because we’ve not been away from home recently apart from going to the vets, but he didn’t put a foot wrong and did two gorgeous tests,” said Fenella.

    “Of all my horses he’s probably the one that excites me most about the future. His talent is phenomenal, he’s just incredible. He has the sweetest nature and you would never know he’s a stallion, he’s is in a barn with my mares and I can ride him with mares.”

    Fenella plans to take Mambo to some more local shows over the winter, and next year hopes to do some Premier Leagues.

    “I have no plans to rush him, no matter how talented he is. But now we can get going again which is great because I’ve really missed him.”

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