A fairytale journey for a last-chance horse whose rider is battling an old injury *H&H Plus*

  • Find out more about this inspirational combination who competed in Bicton four-star – the horse people had given up on plus the rider who is fighting an ongoing battle following a fall in 2017

    A combination have defied the odds to not only compete at Bicton Horse Trials, supported by Chedington, last week, but to also jump clear around the CCI4*-S cross-country track.

    Twenty-one-year-old Emily Mustow shares with us her rollercoaster story, along with that of her Bicton ride, Annie Finch’s Prime Time II…

    “I started eventing when I was about 12 years old on a little Connemara pony, and I just fell in love with it – I remember thinking then, ‘I’m going do this as a career’ and, of course, everyone laughed, because I had only just done my first BE80. I left school to pursue my dream and at 16 I got Prime Time II, or ‘Fred’ as he is known at home.

    “Fred has taken me from strength-to-strength. He is a tricky horse to ride and that’s the only reason why I got him – he was written off by professionals with them saying he wasn’t going to be good enough. He’s just really big, really strong, and a little bit arrogant, and sometimes you just have say to him ‘OK, there you go’. I often ride him on the buckle end of my reins, because he doesn’t like it if you try and organise him too much – he just says ‘no, I’m going here, leave me alone’.

    “He’s a legend and I’ve built a partnership with him – I think I was his last hope in life. He’d been here there and everywhere, people had tried everything and he is difficult on the ground too. He’s got massive separation anxiety – you can’t leave on his own, you can’t do this, you can’t do that; he doesn’t like this stable, he doesn’t like that field. We call him the king because you just have to just do everything he wants to do.

    “When we started out we were just doing small BE novices and BE100 under-18 classes – I think if someone said to me that at the age of 21, I would be doing a four-star and probably one of the biggest four-stars this year, let alone jumping clear around it, I wouldn’t have believed them. I was happy just to canter up the centre line this weekend!

    “I’ve not had an easy journey with him – I’ve been through a lot of injuries. It started when I had a bad fall from Fred at a junior trial at Withington Manor in 2017. It wasn’t his fault – he just slipped and he came up to hit me in the head, fired me headfirst into the sky and then I came down head first into the ground, and I was knocked out cold. I came round shortly afterwards and after a hospital check was discharged to recover at home. And then, just as I was looking at getting back to riding again, I came down with acute appendicitis, so I had to have surgery. Then we went to do our first CCI2*-L at Frickley and he carried me home because I wasn’t quite okay still following my fall.

    “Later on that year, all the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome started to hit me – it was horrible. It completely changes your mental state, you’re really angry, sensitive, I was tired, and I got to the point where my limbs started to actually give way underneath me. I went into hospital and I was diagnosed, so I had about a month off riding.

    “I was then okay for a few years and I went away to Harry Meade’s and Vittoria Panizzon’s as a working pupil, which was invaluable, but I was still suffering so I came home to give myself a proper chance to recover. Then in March 2020 I got fired headfirst into the floor by a young horse, so the concussion was added to again and then in October I got kicked in the head, so I’m still actually undergoing treatment for my post-concussion syndrome.

    “The treatment involves things like viewing exercises – when I got kicked in the head, I lost some sight in my left eye so I still can’t see very well out of it. It’s not been easy.

    “But a few weeks ago, Fred sustained a horrific injury in the stable, where he fell over and bashed his hind-quarters. I just remember seeing him walk out of the stable and everyone on the yard saying he must have broken a leg – he was hopping lame. I was so frightened, but Towcester Vets have been incredible – for three weeks they just kept on and kept on and kept on treating him. Fred got infections in that leg and they just kept optimistic and kept trying. It wasn’t easy to keep trying on a 19-year-old horse.

    “But they were right and Fred only had one run this season at novice and intermediate level before coming here, so I thought we would just take it phase by phase. And now somehow I’m stood here saying I’ve just gone clear.

    “It’s just been a fairytale journey, and I just never, ever thought this would ever happen in a million years. I remember thinking completing my first international was everything and when I crossed the finish line today, I just started crying.

    “I owe Fred everything and this was for him, because a lot of people told me not to pursue him, that he wasn’t right for me, he was going to ruin my career and and all that kind of thing and I just kept trying to ignore them. And today I’ve really gone ‘see, he can do it’ – he is just amazing and my best friend.

    “He’s the king and goes around at home like he’s a five-year-old, even though he’s 19. He was messing around in the warm-up today, but when I came over the last fence I just burst into tears of joy.

    “I’m based at home in Northamptonshire – I felt like I’d failed when I had to give up the working pupil jobs to move home, but without that I wouldn’t be healed enough to be going around this today. Memory is a huge thing for me as I struggle to remember things and remembering that dressage test on Friday was a mission in itself. I’ve got an amazing specialist and my mum Hannah is my best friend – her and my dad David have supported me, no matter what. I’m so grateful to them for all their help, and I just I hope I’ve really done them justice.”


    Read the full report from Bicton in the 17 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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