Come­back horses The equines who re­turned to com­pe­ti­tion against the odds

Un­ex­pected come­backs are of­ten hoped for, but can never be counted on. An­drea Oakes digs out sto­ries of horses who re­turned against the odds

Horse & Hound - - News Insider - H&H

‘The big­gest thing was keep­ing her calm — she wanted to do three things at once’ IS­ABELL WERTH ON BELLA ROSE’S RE­cOv­ERy

WIN­NING one gold medal at the World Eques­trian Games (WEG) is an ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ment for any horse — and win­ning two medals dou­bly so. But reign­ing supreme af­ter be­ing side­lined with in­jury for nearly four years? That’s noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous.

Bella Rose’s epic come­back was the talk of the dres­sage world in Septem­ber, when she car­ried Is­abell Werth to both in­di­vid­ual and team glory at Tryon. The pair seized their chance to re­write the his­tory books; their pre­vi­ous WEG ap­pear­ance, in Nor­mandy in 2014, ended in dis­as­ter when Bella Rose suf­fered lame­ness is­sues af­ter win­ning team gold and had to be with­drawn.

It was a dev­as­tat­ing blow for Is­abell and the mare’s owner, Madeleine Win­ter-Schulze, but the sit­u­a­tion wors­ened that sea­son when a se­ri­ous in­jury was di­ag­nosed. Is­abell her­self takes up the story of how the ex­tent of the dam­age be­came clear.

“The point at the be­gin­ning was to find out ex­actly what was wrong,” she ex­plains. “MRI scans showed Bella Rose had a bone prob­lem that re­quired surgery. A screw was in­serted and later re­moved, af­ter which every­thing healed, but she needed time to re­cover.”

While fans may have feared that they’d seen the best of Bella Rose, Is­abell kept the faith that her “dream horse” would re­claim her place in the lime­light.

“The vet said there was no rea­son why she couldn’t re­turn to dres­sage,” adds Is­abell. “It was a mat­ter of hav­ing pa­tience.

“Bella Rose spent time at the spa, on the wa­ter tread­mill, as that helps the heal­ing process. She was su­per through­out her time off, al­ways con­tent, but as soon as we could start train­ing she woke up and wanted to go. The big­gest thing was try­ing to keep her calm; she wanted to do three things at once.” Is­abell ad­mits that she was lucky enough to have other horses at the top level, and so avoided the temp­ta­tion to or­ches­trate a hasty come­back with Bella Rose. It was not un­til June this year that the pair burst back on to the scene with an emo­tional dou­ble win at Fritzens in Aus­tria.

Her de­ci­sion to ride Bella Rose at WEG this year, leav­ing her world num­ber one and triple Eu­ro­pean gold medal­list, Wei­he­gold OLD, at home, re­veals the trust Is­abell had in her beloved mare to de­liver the goods — de­spite the lengthy lay­off.

“From the first mo­ment I was in­spired by her,” says Is­abell, who teamed up with the 14-year-old chest­nut 11 years ago. “She has such charisma, elas­tic­ity and pride, and she al­ways wants to give more. Now, she is bet­ter than ever. She is fit, happy and re­ally strong — not just in her body, but in her mind.

“Any horse can get in­jured, of course, but she came through and there’s no rea­son not to keep go­ing. I al­ways felt that one day she would be back at the top.”

‘We will be guided by Maisie and how she feels,

be­cause it would be greedy of us to push her’


NEW ZEALAND event rider Tim

Price missed his top ride Wesko in more ways than one when the horse dam­aged a ten­don at the height of his ca­reer.

“It was a mas­sive blow, as he had so much on the hori­zon that year,” ex­plains Tim, who was pre­par­ing his for­mer Luh­mühlen win­ner and Rio Olympic hope­ful for Ken­tucky 2016, hav­ing fin­ished run­ner-up at the event the year be­fore. “Horses do come back from that sort of in­jury, but you don’t know un­til you know.”

Af­ter early treat­ment with stem cell ther­apy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP), Wesko was sent to Mark Ford for 18 months of rest and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“The yard wasn’t the same with­out him,” adds Tim, who said at the time that the in­ci­dent felt “life chang­ing”. “The horse has done a lot for my ca­reer and had al­ways been 100% in­jury-free.”

Wesko, now 15, re­turned to Tim at the end of 2017 — and this sum­mer made a spec­tac­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion come­back, fin­ish­ing sec­ond at Jardy CIC3* Event Rider Mas­ters and sixth at Blair Cas­tle.

“It was a dream to get to where we did this year,” ad­mits Tim, clearly chuffed to have his “old mate” back in ac­tion. “But we’re still on the jour­ney — we’re not to­tally there yet. He’s def­i­nitely come back ea­ger and happy to be work­ing again, but it’s im­por­tant that we take our time and don’t ask too much of him.

“It’s very much about him en­joy­ing him­self and me en­joy­ing him,” says Tim. “In the past there was maybe a bit of pres­sure, but this time around we will see what suits him. Next year, he’ll be great — he’s a class horse.”

Oc­ca­sion­ally, an in­jury is not just ca­reerend­ing but life-threat­en­ing. The fu­ture looked bleak for Flora Har­ris’ event mare Amaz­ing VIII, who was am­bu­lanced away from the cross-coun­try fin­ish on her Bad­minton de­but in 2015.

“She did a ten­don — a spi­ral tear, a proper job,” ex­plains Flora. “We ab­so­lutely thought it was the end. The in­jury was so se­vere that treat­ment with stem cells or PRP was point­less. If she was a geld­ing, we would have con­sid­ered hav­ing her put to sleep.”

It was only be­cause “Maisie” ap­peared so com­fort­able over the fol­low­ing days that the team per­se­vered. Af­ter a pe­riod on box rest, she was sound enough for the field.

“We tried to put her in foal but she didn’t take, de­spite re­peated at­tempts,” says Flora, who no­ticed that the usu­ally con­tent mare was be­com­ing bored and fed up. “We sent her to win­ter at Can­dle­trees Eques­trian in Som­er­set, where they did a beau­ti­ful job of get­ting her fat and happy and giv­ing her some­thing to do.

“Tracy Howe did all the slow re­hab, walk­ing Maisie for months on hard sur­faces, lon­grein­ing her and hack­ing over Ex­moor,” adds Flora. “When she came home, she was ready to go back in the school to do some work.”

In July, a full three years af­ter the in­ci­dent, Maisie de­lighted her con­nec­tions with a suc­cess­ful run at Lit­tle Down­ham. She has since com­pleted two CIC3*s, fin­ish­ing sixth at Mill­street and form­ing part of the vic­to­ri­ous Bri­tish Na­tions Cup team at Waregem.

“Our vet can’t be­lieve how her leg seems to get bet­ter and bet­ter,” says Flora, who will keep the mare, now 14, at short for­mat events. “But we will be guided by Maisie and how she feels, be­cause it would be greedy of us to push her.

“We were heart­bro­ken when she in­jured her­self so badly and gen­uinely thought she was fin­ished as a rid­den horse,” she adds. “We just feel very lucky to have her back.”

FANS of French showjump­ing mare Flora De Mari­posa were re­lieved to see her re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion in Septem­ber af­ter a year out of ac­tion. The pop­u­lar 13-year-old, who won team gold at the Rio Olympics, de­vel­oped a ten­don prob­lem dur­ing Di­nard CSI5* in 2017.

“The in­jury didn’t need surgery, mostly just time,” ex­plains Geneviève Mé­gret, who owns Flora. “Af­ter a few months she had tha­las­sother­apy and a phy­tother­apy treat­ment [sea­wa­ter and plant-based ther­a­pies], be­fore grad­u­ally re­sum­ing flat­work. She jumped two 1.35m classes at her first show back.”

Af­ter years with Péné­lope Leprévost in the sad­dle, Flora is mak­ing her come­back with new rider Féli­cie Ber­trand. Does Geneviève be­lieve the mare can suc­ceed for a sec­ond time af­ter her set­back?

“Flora is a ge­nius and when jump­ing she is care­ful, smart and brave,” says Geneviève. “The mare is in great shape, so we’ll take our time and use a pro­gres­sive pro­gramme to try to reach the top again.”

‘She is bet­ter than ever — in her body and mind’: Is­abell Werth’s Bella Rose made a re­mark­able come­back af­ter four years out of ac­tion to win dou­ble gold at WEG this year. The dres­sage mare had been plagued with lame­ness is­sues, which re­quired bone surgery

2016 Olympic team gold medal­list Flora De Mari­posa has just re­turned to com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a year off due to ten­don in­jury. She was treated with sea­weed and plant-based ther­a­pies

‘It’s about him en­joy­ing him­self and me en­joy­ing him’: Tim Price’s four-star win­ner Wesko has made a spec­tac­u­lar come­back af­tertwo years on the side­lines

‘We thought it was the end’: Flora Har­ris and Amaz­ing VIII are back on the cir­cuit de­spite a spi­ral tear to the mare’s ten­don in 2015

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