A Spot of Retail Therapy!

by Pippa Childerhouse

AMOUR G

2005 didn’t look as if it would be one of the best for Team Torrent. A slipped disc had caused me eight months of sciatica until, in February, I finally had spinal surgery to correct the problem. Once I was eventually able to start riding again, the horses had been off work for about six months. Following a few weeks of walking exercise, imagine my dismay to find Torrent very slightly lame in trot. There was nothing to see or feel, so he was rested some more, then tested some more, but with no change, we decided to ask our vet to refer us to Newmarket.

To cut a long story short, Torrent saw Sue Dyson at the Animal Health Trust who, with the help of an MRI scan, diagnosed a strain of the Impar ligament (connecting the distal phalanx with the distal sesamoid). Sadly he didn’t show any sign of improvement over the following months and so I had to face the fact that the wonder horse that had taken me from an OK riding club rider to British Dressage National Championships winner was going to have to be retired.

Unfortunately, I have never been in a position to buy smart horses: my top dressage horses have all been on loan from their owners. To replace Torrent with something ready-to-ride was totally out of the question, so I started looking at buying a foal and being patient. I still had my second string ILPH Helenos to ride and we could have fun showing in Sporthorse youngstock classes in the meantime, I reasoned.

I began to look at websites but there was just too much choice! Which would be my future partner? This one? Maybe that one? My head was spinning - I didn’t want to make a mistake! Then one day a photo stopped me in my tracks. This little face just screamed from the page “Buy me!” Was this THE one? Whoever he was, he was coloured, and I’d never had a coloured horse before. I hadn’t thought I was looking for one now. What I’d been looking for was a future dressage horse, one with good paces, temperament, conformation and breeding. This foal certainly had presence, he had a good dam line, and although his sire wasn’t so known for top dressage himself, he was a grandson of Ferro. Maybe the fact that he was a well marked coloured horse could be my insurance in case he didn’t turn out to be my future star? Surely someone else would want him, if I didn’t?

I wrestled with my thoughts for a day or two but this voice kept telling me to contact the stud. It turned out the foal had only been advertised that same morning that I had seen him initially, and that they had had several enquiries but he was not sold as yet. However he was a 5½ hour drive away, and I couldn’t just drop everything to go and view him. But what was I thinking about ….spending all my savings to buy a foal that I’d not seen in the flesh? That dear little face just kept on at me though, and in a complete moment of madness I bought him. I blame it on a mid life crisis! I told my friends and family that it was a bit of retail therapy for the ‘loss of my pal Torrent’, but I think a pair of shoes or a new handbag would have been a lot cheaper!

I have to say I have never regretted that decision once. ….. Amour G, (aka Spider), has turned out to be everything I’d hoped for and more so far. There have been many joyous days but two stick out way ahead of the others. Firstly, being awarded not one but two BEF Futurity Elite First Premiums was such a very special moment. To hear the evaluators say that ‘it wouldn’t matter what colour this horse was, that he could be pink with blue spots on and he would still be a great horse’, made me swell with pride. The other day was of course when he passed his grading with the WBS-UK. Mother and I made the long trek across to Hartpury not really with any great expectations. We’d heard that the pass rate was usually less than 50% and when we read the catalogue for the weekend, it did nothing to raise our hopes at all. The breeding of the 25 colts forward read like a Who’s Who of modern dressage breeding. There were horses entered from some of the top studs in the country and then there was us, turning up in our ancient old trailer, slinking in beside some lovely Oakleys and the like! Crikes! The story of the weekend is probably another tale in itself but suffice to say that when we found out that Spider was indeed one of the ten colts who had passed, both mum and I had tears of joy streaming down our cheeks! The 5 hour journey home seemed to fly by as we took our precious cargo back to Norfolk.

An operation to my shoulder in early summer, and its recovery taking longer than hoped, has delayed our competition debut. I’m in no hurry for him, though he is working at Elementary level at home and should come out at Novice BD this year.

On the up side, I have found a lovely young girl who rides him very nicely and lives for show jumping. Spider has been loving his new hobby, proving sensible yet bold, and if this snow would just go away now, we could get on and he can start doing some jumping shows and cross country training.

I hadn’t set out to buy a stallion but having worked with and shown them for years before I married, it wasn’t something that would be an issue. I had the facilities at home to keep, although not to stand an entire and I always said ‘Let’s take each day as it comes, and if he proves himself to be good enough then we’ll see’.

Well, he certainly has proved he’s good enough and had a very exciting first season at stud. With thanks to Sally at Groomsbridge Stud there will be many baby Spiders to look forward to meeting this year.

It’s not usually to be recommended but this bit of impulsive internet retail therapy has turned out just fine!

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