Monday, 2 May 2016

The Wilbur-force retires on a high

I have mixed emotions as I write this blog. My beautiful horse, Wilbur (aka Wild Spirit), has been retired due to multiple issues including damaged suspensory ligaments, and sacroiliac pain. We were doing so well, and he looks incredible, yet underneath, he was clearly in pain.

This recent diagnosis, courtesy of the professional and capable team at the Animal Health Trust, would explain his increasingly unpredictable behaviour over the past few months, when ridden. He was in pain. Even though he was being treated for ulcers and having various back and physio sessions, his behaviour became increasingly dangerous. Despite this, we ended our ridden partnership on a high, as the Chiltern and Thames Medium Winter Dressage Champions 2016. Wilbur has given me so much joy (and heart ache, as only horse owners will know!) over the past 7 years and is one special boy. Let me explain.

He has a very strong link with my late husband, Ian. In February 2008, Ian was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour - a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme - and we spent Valentine's Day in Stoke Mandeville Hospital awaiting further tests. Ian promised that he would do better than those sterile surroundings for our date the following year. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks later, but he kept his word. In January 2009, I was looking for a new horse after my own, Willow, had been put to sleep with a severe bout of colic the previous November. Friend Ellie had told me about a horse called Wilbur being for sale so I rang her friend Kim, who owned him, to see if he was still for sale. He was. I had to go and see him.

On the day I first met him, a pair of lost gloves turned up in my hat bag - I had hunted high and low for these, including in the hat bag. This was a sign, and when I sat on Wilbur's back I just knew I had to buy him. I had lofty ambitions, at the time, of eventing at Intermediate level, but at that moment, I wouldn't have cared if we hadn't jumped a cross pole! He passed the vetting and arrived home on Valentine's Day 2009.

Despite being brilliant across the country, Wilbur knew better. I was not the bravest rider over solid fences and he wasn't great at keeping coloured poles up, so we concentrated on our dressage, something we both enjoyed. He has taken me to a level I never  expected to achieve and won my first ever sash, which satisfies a childhood ambition. Wilbur has taught me loads, not just about horsemanship  but 'stuff' about me and life generally. Thank you, Wilbur, you owe me nothing and I can't wait to see what you teach me in the next phase of our partnership. As a dear friend put it: 'This is my gift to you, Wilbur; go be a horse, boy, back to how you were born and I will watch over you.' Happy retirement!

Wilbur's golden glory moments:
1st - Tweseldown horse trials, BE90
6th - PetPlan Area Dressage Festival, Elementary
2nd - Reserve Champion, Chiltern & Thames Rider Summer Dressage Championships, Medium
1st -  Champion, Chiltern & Thames Rider Winter Dressage Championships, Medium
Competition photos courtesy of SBM photographic, and John Britter Photography

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.