It’s no secret that Grumeti means the absolute world to me and I get asked a lot about how I came to own him and about our journey together. So whilst unable to go back to my job and unable to gallivant around the countryside on him due to injury, I thought I would take the time to write about him, to try to explain exactly why he means so much to me and to give an insight into the unique bond between a horse and its owner.
For me owning a horse is so unusual, it’s wildly different to the relationship I have with my dog. My dog Luna is amazing, but she is a companion and whilst I love her completely, she doesn’t give me the things that owning horses does.
I tie so much to my horses, I have hopes, dreams and ambitions with them, things I want to achieve and learn and progress with. All the while, creating a bond, having fun and gaining mutual trust with a 600 kilo animal that could kill me in a heartbeat (not that he ever would).
Grumeti came to me through his racing owners The McNeill Family, Max and Paula McNeill were regular guests in a restaurant I worked in and were without a doubt, my favourite people to look after. Before I even knew they owned racehorses, I knew they were kind, compassionate and generous people, they exude class and grace and are amazingly fun as well. As I got to know them, (I still remember the wine they would drink and how Max takes his coffee) I learnt about their ownership and decided to start following their horses so that I could talk to them about them when they came in.
After a while, I asked them to let me know if they ever had a nice horse finishing up in racing, that would like a second career. It wasn’t long before they asked me if I would like to take on Grumeti and after hearing them speak so fondly of him, how could I say no?
Grumeti was a special horse for them, giving them so many fantastic experiences as owners, winning on the flat, over fences and over hurdles. Including wins at Newmarket, Aintree and Cheltenham. To date I think he’s still the horse that has won the most races for them and you can see why he has a special place in their hearts.
Getting to know you.
People that know me well and were involved in the early days of me owning Grumeti, will know that I didn’t particularly warm to him. It feels awful to admit now, knowing how much he has given me and changed my life. But we just didn’t click.
He’s a wonderfully calm horse, genuine as they come and forgiving when I make a mistake as a rider, all the things that every amateur rider wants in a horse. But not me, I thought he was dull. I was used to my fire breathing warmblood mare, who is an explosive ride, everything I achieved with Matilda felt like a huge deal. Mostly because she was such a witch and would take so much persuasion and coercion, that when things went well, it felt like a massive achievement and milestone. I didn’t have this feeling with Grumeti. It wasn’t that we weren’t achieving things because we were, he was learning with every ride. However, because of his kind nature, we didn’t have the battles, everything was very…nice. Which I wasn’t used to and it took me a fair amount of time to retrain the way my brain worked and accept that we were achieving things and progressing.
For any ex-racehorse owner, your first show jumping round, first dressage show, first time hacking solo off the yard and
first time getting a good quality leg yield, are all amazing achievements and I eventually started to realise that it didn’t have to be stressful to be progress. Which is when we really started to form a bond.
A turn for the worst.
After a year, Grumeti and I were getting on really well when he became really unwell, displacing his colon and restricting the blood supply to his liver and kidneys. This resulted in him presenting with neurological symptoms and being referred from my local vets to Rossdales in Newmarket, so that he could have a CT scan if needed.
I was a mess, completely crippled and consumed by the thought that I may lose the horse that had given me so much joy. I didn’t sleep for three days, cried more than I ever have in my life. Not only did I think I was about to experience the death of Grumeti, but I thought it would be the death of my dreams, ambitions and all my hard work in his retraining.
Thankfully with help from the McNeills and the amazing team at Rossdales, he started to get better and after a rough 10 days or so, I got the call that said I could bring him home. I don’t think I’ll ever find the words to explain all the things that I felt knowing that he would be back home, in his stable, being showered with love.
Since then I don’t think I have taken a single moment with him for granted, through being so poorly he had lost a great deal of weight and needed careful care and management to help his digestive system to recover. The extra time I spent with him in his recovery was when I really feel like my love for him deepened further. I couldn’t believe I had been gifted a second chance.
Through the dark and the dirt.
We are now two years on since that horrible time and my love for this horse just gets stronger everyday. Not only has he taught me so much and made dreams come true, but he’s been with me through the roughest years of my life. Without going into too many personal details, I have seen him every day, through my darkest days and every day he has made me smile and laugh, when I didn’t even think it was possible to do so. He’s given me something to focus on when it’s felt like the whole world was crashing down around me.
Throughout this years lockdowns and this pandemic nightmare he has been my motivation to get up in the morning, he depends on me for his care and well being and knowing that has kept me going through everything.
Right now it’s my turn to help him through a tough time as he goes through recovery from injury and after everything he has done for me, I would truly do anything for him. He’s saved me more times than I can count and I can’t imagine my life without him.
Horses carry the wisdom of healing in their hearts and offer it to any human that possesses the humility to listen.
Thank you as ever for taking the time to read my pieces. I’m hoping to be out and about doing more yard visits soon.
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And a special thank you to Jack and Tom at JTW Equine Images for the photos in this piece.