Showing stars bounce back to win

A rider who suffered a heart attack last year, and a horse who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, fought back to win at Hickstead on Friday

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A pair of comeback kings reclaimed their throne in Hickstead’s Longines International Arena, with Allister Hood and Our Cashel Blue winning the I.C.E. Horseboxes Supreme Cob Championship on Friday.

Prolific showing champion Allister Hood is back to his best after suffering a heart attack in April last year. “I was back in the show ring by the middle of last season,” says Hood, who has won the British Horse Society Supreme Horse championship at our July fixture a total of seven times.

But while Allister was back in good health, his champion horse was a different matter. Caroline Tyrrell’s cob had won nearly every prize there is to win in showing, but disaster struck when Our Cashel Blue was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which manifested itself as a colossal tumour in his shoulder. Suddenly, his bright future had become much more uncertain.

Nevertheless, the team around him soldiered on. First, the horse underwent surgery to remove the tumour and a significant margin of tissue surrounding it, in the hopes of containing the spread of the malignant cells. Then, Blue embarked upon a lengthy rehabilitation process.

“He was the most amazing patient,” says Hood, explaining that the recovery process included two months in a stable and then several months of gentle walking, gradually building up by a few minutes per day. “It was a pretty long winter, and by the end of it, he felt like he was ready to explode. But he never did; he was so sensible.”

By Christmas Day, Hood and his team dared to begin dreaming again. Blue’s recovery was progressing as hoped, and as a special treat, he was turned out for the first time in months to enjoy a canter around his paddock.

“He had a gallop, and a buck, and a really good roll in the mud, but luckily the grass ended up being much more tempting,” adds Hood.

Now, Blue is back at his best, taking his rightful place in the spotlight once again. But for Hood, each ride with his stable superstar is a privilege.

“We were always hopeful that the cancer hadn’t spread, but the vets told us that we’d never know until he suddenly got very sick or lost weight,” he explains. “Now, we’re just enjoying every moment we have with him and taking each day as it comes.”

It’s not just Blue’s connections who are delighting in welcoming the striking horse back to the main stages.

“It’s very humbling, people we’ve never even met come up to us in the collecting ring and ask to pat him, or ask for a photo with him. Somehow, he’s become the people’s horse,” says Hood. “It’s been a long and frustrating time for all of us, but it’s been worth every bit of effort and time to get him back here.”

For showing results, click here

By Tilly Berendt

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