Yesterday I sat down and wrote most of a blog entry. It’s lovely and uplifting and I’ll probably post it soon. However, I woke up this morning with something on my mind. Something that’s probably not going to be popular and will trigger some people, yet I feel compelled to get pen to paper. I did promise that this blog would be contentious…
As some of you will be aware, my top horse, Da Vinci (Des to his friends) has had ongoing problems that mean he’ll no longer be gracing the Grand Prix arena. It is so frustrating and disappointing for me. He has the talent and the heart and we keep him fit for long periods of time, but it seems his body is just not up to the extreme pressure of the upper level work. I’m heartbroken as a lot of my dreams have been set aside as a result of this decision, but I have to do the right thing by my horse. He is in work at the moment - sound and happy and living the good life and it’s just not fair to ‘try again’ as the risk of breaking him permanently is too great.
The thing with Des is that he is a unicorn. Unlike a lot of upper level horses, he is safe enough to put your grandma on. He will hack anywhere, is the same whether you ride him everyday or after six months off, at home or at a big show. He’s no slug though, and has a purposeful, marching walk that literally stops traffic. Just last week Liz was out hacking and a man in car driving past stopped to say what an impressive walk it was. He’s travelled halfway around the world and has competed at shows all over the globe. Liz is also a Team GB para groom and it was her that suggested he might be a good para dressage horse. We spoke with my vet, Rob about this and he agreed – he is confident he’ll be easily managed for this level of work.
So, we put word out and the response was overwhelming. Liz’s initial contact said they couldn’t afford to take on another horse. The next person to make contact was a lovely up and coming Grade 1 rider (the most affected group, doing a walk only test). She came to meet Des and he was perfect. Even in an outdoor arena in a howling gale on a busy livery yard with horses turned out in the field next to him, he didn’t turn a hair and the look on his face as he concentrated so hard to try and work out what she was saying was absolutely priceless. I had tears in my eyes. The rider, her coach and parents went home absolutely buzzing. However, after three days of intense soul searching, they decided to turn the offer down. The main reason being that the rider felt that Des would be wasted with her. They can see that he is a proper medal proposition and this rider is just starting her journey towards World Class and didn’t think it would be fair on the rest of the para community for him to be with her. Also, physically, she struggled with his huge walk – the next few days her body protested loudly at the demands of following his movement. She is devasted and showed incredible maturity to come to this decision.
Now here’s where the tricky bit comes in. The rest of the riders that have responded and would be suitable for him (I’m looking at a maximum of Grade 3) won’t come and look at him unless I shoot an up to date video of him performing all the movements in their test. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but I live a 4 hour from the yard where he lives and even then, Liz doesn’t have the facilities to really show him off. The only video I have of him in walk is a few years old but does show his step and also his laid back temperament. I’ve embedded it below – ignore the early GP work in the middle – he walks out at the beginning and the end. OK, I get that travelling to see a horse is an effort, especially with physical challenges. I get that it would be preferable to see him doing the work before that. But I can tell you, as a rider without a horse, if someone offered me a potential Tokyo horse, if a top level groom who has experience with the needs of a rider like me will advocate for his suitability, if another rider has shown his temperament to be ideal, I’d sell a child to go and check it out!
(BTW – if there’s an owner out there who does have a Grand Prix horse they’d like ridden on the international circuit, please do get in touch.)
Des being minded by Liz's 5yo yesterday.
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