Brothers in Arms: Former racehorses on parade at Grand Military Day

  • Sandown winners Barbers Shop and Monkerhostin set to feature
  • Pair highlight a racehorse’s life after racing and similarities with service men and women

At Sandown Park on Friday 9th March two former racehorses are set to parade ahead of the 155th running of the Grand Military Gold Cup. The appearance in the paddock of Barbers Shop and Monkerhostin will signify the special bond that exists between man and horse, and soldier and horse in particular, as well as highlighting the similarities and shared challenges faced by military personnel and racehorses.

Not only do Barbers Shop and Monkerhostin share close connections with the military and Sandown Park, the pair are also wonderful ambassadors for the charity, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), both horses being great examples of the thoroughbred’s versatility.

Barbers Shop is owned by HM The Queen, Patron of the Grand Military Steeple Chase Committee, and among his eight career wins was victory in the Listed Future Stars Chase at Sandown Park in 2008. Following his retirement from the track he became one of the leading former racehorses to compete in the show ring and was three times champion at Royal Windsor Horse Show. He is now retired from competitive showing.

Monkerhostin’s career highlight was his victory at Sandown in the 2008 running of the Bet365 Gold Cup. His retirement from the track a year later coincided with Royal Marine Sergeant Major George Beilby’s return from his last tour of Afghanistan.

It was during this time that Sergeant Major Beilby took on Monkerhostin, following a recommendation by Johnson White, assistant to the horse’s trainer Philip Hobbs, as Beilby recalled, when interviewed in a specially made video to mark their appearance at Sandown on Friday:

“I started riding him and I immediately began to identify that our lives were not that dissimilar. I have made this analogy before, but racehorses are in many ways like soldiers. They live very disciplined lives and when they are asked to perform they are expected to give everything, yet they have arguably the least to gain from what they do and the most to lose.

“And at the end of their careers it can be quite difficult making that transition from out of racing and equally that also applies to soldiers, so I identified with him and the little issues and problems he was having in adjusting to life after racing.”

As the pair got to know each other, something else became apparent to Beilby.

“What I did notice though, and I’ve ridden lots of horses, is that there was something unique about Monkerhostin. Every time I went for a ride on him, I felt better, I felt like I had been on a bit of journey. And not only that, he seemed to come back feeling better also.”

Based on his experience with ‘Monkey’, Beilby says he would recommend a former racehorse to any competent, confident rider.

“I believe the qualities I have that have helped me become a successful soldier, will also make me a success when the day comes and I become a civilian. And similarly, the qualities that make a racehorse good at what they do will also make them good in another job. They are versatile, they are adaptable, they can do so many other things and I think there is probably a person for every thoroughbred out there.”

In Monkerhostin, George Beilby has already found his equine soul mate. The gelding is now firmly part of the Beilby family and enjoys hacking out, as well as some days hunting.

Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), said: “George’s story about his journey with Monkerhostin is a powerful and poignant one and testimony to the therapeutic abilities of a horse, particularly thoroughbreds.

“At RoR, we have already provided a horse to Horseback UK, the Scottish based charity founded in 2009 with the aim of assisting wounded servicemen and women by introducing them to horses. And in becoming one of our official ambassadors, Captain Guy Disney, also recognises the valuable role racehorses can play and how versatile they can be when given the opportunity.”

To watch the video of George Beilby and Monkerhostin, click here