How to keep an older horse sound: Over To You’s secrets to success [H&H VIP]

  • Has Over To You stayed sound and fit because of the right genes, through careful management or by good luck — or perhaps a combination of all three factors? His owner, rider and vet reveal all…

    Nickname: Jack

    Age: 26

    Height: 16hh

    Sire: Over The River

    Competitive career: over 15 years, Jack won four European team gold medals, two Olympic team silvers and a WEG individual silver and team bronze. He completed Badminton seven times (five times finishing in the top 10).

    “Jack was a racing reject and as a youngster was a weedy thoroughbred — a weak, poor-looking thing,” says his rider Jeanette Brakewell, who was later gifted him by Richard Holdsworth.

    “He was very well bred but built like a teapot, with a high head carriage and quite a dipped back. But he wasn’t croup-high and he had excellent leg conformation.

    “He travelled easily over the ground and always landed well, which must have contributed to his soundness. He was quite sharp and was always a very fit horse.

    “At four, we discovered that Jack’s heart missed a beat at rest. This didn’t need treatment — maybe he has lasted so long because he hasn’t used up so many of his heartbeats!

    “Jack was only ever lame twice. He cracked a splint bone at Blenheim in 1997 and needed six weeks’ box-rest. Then in 2002, the day after winning silver at WEG, he was hopping lame. He had a bone spur on his short pastern, under the coronet band, but he was sound by the end of the season.

    “I did nothing special with him, but kept him fit with plenty of hill work and never trashed him by running him on bad ground. Although not a weight carrier, he was easy to feed and never had supplements or calmers. He has been very low-maintenance.

    “Jack did his last championship aged 17 and finally retired from competition at 20. He’s still in work and looks really well — he’s a bit stiffer behind, but his legs are great. He was made of tough stuff — a one-off.”

    The vet’s view
    “Jack was a lovely sound horse to look after,” says Andy Bathe, former GBR team vet.

    “He was naturally athletic and carried himself so well that he found the job easy. We really didn’t have to do much with him — he was nicely unexceptional. If we could clone an event horse, from a veterinary point of view, it would be him.”

    When is the best time to retire your horse? [H&H VIP]