There’s more to rehomed horses than meets the eye. Stephanie Bateman speaks to guardians of five rescue horses to find out just what they are capable of...
Charity-born foal to novice eventer
Dippy – officially known as World Horse Welfare Norfolk Swing – was born at World Horse Welfare Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in 2008 after his mother was rescued from neglect. The thoroughbred thrived in the care of their expert team and was first rehomed as a youngster to his groom, Briony Gilks. The pair competed successfully in a number of disciplines, representing their club at the Riding Club World Championships in 2016, until in 2018 work commitments forced Briony to return him to World Horse Welfare, who found another rehomer to continue his career.
Dippy’s new rehomer Stella clicked with him instantly, and the pair have gone from strength to strength.
“I already had a horse, but he was coming to the end of his career, and when a friend told me about Dippy, I went to see him and fell in love,” says Stella. “Dippy was named Dippy for a reason! He’s quite a character and very playful – he’s 11, but he acts more like four. Eventing-wise, he’s really boosted my confidence and was my first novice ride, so I have a lot to thank him for.”
The pair have lots planned when competition kicks back into action.
“We’re aiming to get to novice again, with our sights set on two-star eventually,” says Stella. “We’ve been showjumping at 1.10m over the winter and he’s so good at cross-country because he’s very careful. He can be shy in big atmospheres, but really enjoys the cross-country.”
Dippy has become a bit of a legend, thanks to his success.
“Briony did a lot with him, so everyone recognises him at events and knows him better than they know me,” laughs Stella. “People are really surprised when they see the World Horse Welfare logo – nobody can believe he’s a rescue horse and they’re always in awe of him, just like I am. Anyone looking to rehome a horse should definitely do it: World Horse Welfare is so supportive and rehoming is such a rewarding thing to do.”
Unwanted foal to dressage diva
After Irene Stove lost her horse of 14 years to colic, she vowed never to get another horse – until she met Redwings Maddie.
“A local lady had bought a cob mare and a few months later, Maddie arrived, to everyone’s surprise,” explains Irene. “The owner had no idea about looking after a foal, so handed her over to what was then Mountains Animal Sanctuary near Forfar, in Scotland, which merged with Redwings in 2015.”
Maddie spent the first few years at the sanctuary, being handled by the staff and becoming a firm favourite with visitors to the centre. Although Irene was determined not to buy another horse, fate intervened.
“A friend of mine asked me to help her back a couple of youngsters that she’d taken on from Mountains and one of them was Maddie,” explains Irene. “I got totally attached, and ended up having her signed over to me.”
Seven years later and the pair are going above and beyond Irene’s expectations.
“Maddie is a great little horse who loves to strut her stuff down the centre line at British Dressage [BD] Quest competitions,” explains Irene. “We captain the Northern Prancers Team Quest team and we also compete in My Quest. Last year and this year we qualified to compete in the Scottish Regional BD Quest Finals at intro. Maddie was a star both years, coming third and qualifying for the National Quest Championship.
“Maddie has also had success in the riding clubs that we are members of, winning the Gordon Dressage Group Quest prelim league and the British Riding Clubs grassroots points league. We’ve just started doing novice.”
Maddie also enjoys jumping, and Irene has plans to compete in Quest jumping.
“Maddie is a fabulous little horse whom I love very much,” adds Irene. “I feel very blessed to have her and it’s nice to know that I’ve been able to give her a nice life.”
Abandoned foal to fantastic all-rounder
Tied to a gate in a lay-by, suffering from severe sepsis due to an untreated injury to his penis, coloured colt Obi’s future looked bleak. Thankfully, he was rescued by The Horse Trust, who changed his life forever. After being rushed straight to the Royal Veterinary College, vets set about performing a life saving operation to reconstruct his penis and remove necrotic tissue.
His horrific past put firmly behind him, Obi was allowed to grow and mature in a much happier environment at The Horse Trust before being taken on loan by Hannah Griffiths who took him on as a gangly four-year-old after her own horse was retired.
“He was 14.1hh, young and weak when he came to me, and is now nearly 16hh and a bulk of a cob,” says Hannah. “We’ve been through a lot together – he’s had his health challenges, including horrendous strangles which nearly killed him, and splints and sidebone as a young horse, but despite that he’s turned his hooves to everything.”
Hannah has competed Obi in showjumping, dressage and local eventing up to 90cm, including being placed in eventer challenges.
“Life with a rescue isn’t always straightforward because he had such an awful start in life, but he’s worth his weight in gold,” adds Hannah. “Everyone who meets him adores him.”
The perfect gent, Obi can be ridden by children and seasoned riders and can do everything from a beach gallop to a good stab at half-pass.
“His only foible is tractors, which absolutely terrify him – he will spin and bolt for his life. With other big traffic he doesn’t bat an eyelid, and we wonder if a tractor was involved in giving him his injury,” ponders Hannah. “I couldn’t imagine life without him, he’s the horse of a lifetime and a total cob converter for everyone who meets him.
“He’s taught me a lot, not just about training horses, but also how to keep a horse healthy and happy. Once they get over their issues, they are so grateful and so much fun.”
Welfare case to BE90 event horse
When mare Lady Mianella (Nelly) arrived at Bransby Horses as a yearling from a rundown and over stocked stud yard, she was underweight and hadn’t left her stable for months.
With first-rate care and training, she matured into a stunning youngster, ready to take on any challenge. It was then that she met her current loaner Helen Davis. Helen was on the lookout for a new horse having recently lost her horse of a lifetime.
“When I turned 40, I set out to fulfil my dreams of eventing,” says Helen. “I bought a youngster and produced him to event. He was doing really well until we discovered multiple skeletal issues and he was put to sleep at nine years old. I was heartbroken.”
Helen clawed together what money she could to find another youngster and start again. Little did she know her silver lining would come in the form of a welfare case.
“One of my instructors sent me a photo of Nelly in 2016 and told me to get in touch with Bransby,” says Helen. “I went to try her and the charity did lots of checks to ensure we were the right match – it was like the perfect dating agency.”
Two months later, Nelly arrived. “She had the best manners and had clearly been looked after and schooled by professionals – it was the last place I expected to find a competition horse,” says Helen. “A few years later, we’re now competing at BE90.”
Helen’s cross-country colours are in Bransby’s colours and she has their logo on her sleeves and dressage pad.
“People recognise her at events and always come to say hi – they love hearing her story,” says Helen. “Our plan is to get to the Burghley 80cm championships and keep progressing. She truly is my silver lining.”
Former racehorse to showjumper
At just three years old, Flat racehorse Drinking Buddy was retired from racing and found his way to the Racehorse Rescue Centre in Carlisle, where he was retrained and lightly competed. Four years ago, he found his dream home with Karen Wood and her 15-year-old granddaughter Grace Wood.
Karen had been looking for a horse for Grace to move on to from ponies, and although sceptical about her granddaughter’s first horse being an ex-racehorse, Buddy’s amazing temperament soon won her over.
“He’s totally laid-back and 100% bombproof,” says Karen. “The first time we took him cross-country schooling, I put him in a Dutch gag in case he took off with Grace, but he quickly went back to his snaffle when we realised he had no intention of bolting.”
Grace and Buddy have developed a bond. “She’d had a few ponies before him, but I was keen for her to move on to a horse, and it’s paid off,” explains Karen. “She does a lot of her competing at Blackdyke Farm where she does the winter points jumping league and they are currently in second place.”
The pair also have a penchant for Derbies. “Last year she did Cumbria Horse Trials eventer Derby, which she won,” says Karen.
Buddy isn’t without his quirks, as Karen explains: “He has to be sedated to be shod and clipped and he has to see the farrier every four weeks because his feet splay out like dinner plates. He’s quite high maintenance, but he’s such a lovely horse.”
Karen feels getting a horse from a charity was right for her, but it’s not for everyone.
“A lot depends on the horse and the person,” she says. “I knew the charity and trusted them. People want horses that have been there and done it, but I prefer something that needs a bit of work. Grace has had to put the work in and that’s experience that you can’t buy.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 28 May 2020
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