A pony found with a severed tendon and crawling with lice when he was about six months old has won the prelim gold and overall cob titles at the British Dressage Associated Championships this month.
Katie Lee was overjoyed to win on KSL Long Shot, which was named after his survival at the start of his life.
Katie told H&H she was working for the vet practice to which “Minty” was brought as a months-old colt in early 2014.
“He was tiny,” Katie said. “The lice and malnourishment were obvious, and there was blood on his hind leg. It didn’t look too bad until it was clipped but the extensor tendon was completely severed. He was standing with his head pressed against the wall, and I thought I’d never sen such a depressed horse.”
Minty’s case was discussed and it was suggested that the kindest option might be to put him down.
“It would have been difficult to rehome him as he was so young and with a severe injury that needed daily care,” Katie said. “Who was going to want to take him with his injury, and pay for it? But I’d been looking after him every day and I just loved him.
“People have asked me what it was about this poor, mangled little thing, and it was his beautiful face. He was terrified but I loved him.”
Katie went home to talk to her parents, as “horses and competing are very much a family thing”.
“I said ‘You’re going to think I’m barking but why don’t we rehome him?’” she said. “I think my dad was thinking I’d not long bought this lovely warmblood to compete, and why did I want a six-month-old 12hh cob with no tendon. I got it but every horse we’ve had has worked out.”
Katie spoke to all the right people, who were happy for her to take Minty.
“Everyone was very clear it was a long shot, which is where his name came from,” she said. “Friends would say ‘Katie, that’s a long shot; you might end up with a lovely pony or you might be heartbroken’ but I said ‘I’ll give it a go’. And within a fortnight, it was evident he wanted to live.”
After extensive rest and treatment, Minty joined Katie’s other horses, and buddied up with Katie’s youngster Wally.
“He walked up to Wally doing his little baby chatter and put his head under his tummy and started sucking on his sheath,” Katie said. “Wally was looking at me like ‘Mum, what is this and why’s it doing that?’ He should still have been with his mum. He didn’t really know what feed was, although that and sleep are now his favourite things.”
Minty thrived but was still tiny, Katie said, and his “temperament was to die for; he’s a horse who should have been terrified of humans, but he’s beautiful”. He eventually matured at 14hh, which meant she could ride him. He has a significant scar on his leg and frequent physio and farrier visits but has never been lame.
He and Katie had done some showing, but had “no great ambitions” in this area.
“I do dressage with my others but he’s a traditional cob, not a dressage horse,” she said. “But then my parents said ‘You do dressage on a Welsh section D so why can’t he do it?’ and I thought ‘Too right he can’!
“There’s plenty you can do, then British Dressage brought out the associated championships and I thought that was an excellent idea. This year I affiliated him and thought ‘Let’s give it a whirl and see what happens’.”
What happened was that in a few prelim tests, Minty qualified for the championships, so they made the five-hour trip from County Durham to Bury Farm.
“Off we went with no expectations.” Katie said. “In the test, I was walking round trying to conserve his energy, then the horn went and I picked him up, and thought ‘I’ve never sat on a trot like this, he’s totally got this’.
“My husband said afterwards that he’d aced it, it was the best test he’d ever done and I was saying ‘Stop it, his year will be next year’.”
There was confusion over the scores but in the presentation, when sashes were put not only on Minty but on Katie too, she realised he had won both titles.
“It was surreal,” she said. “We’ve had lots of success in BD and unaffiliated but there was something different about that day, and with where he came from in life, I really felt he deserved it. It’s almost unbelievable, remembering where he was.”