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Success stories Cheeky Wee Red - From Sprinting to Grand Prix Success

3rd May 2023

Written by Alice Pullem

Cheeky Wee Red is a 15hh 15 year old Chestnut mare by Pastoral Pursuits out of Swynford Elegance. She was originally trained by Richard Fahey in Yorkshire and then by Alistair Whillans in the Borders. She ran a total of 22 times with three wins and five placings, earning a total of £8,823 for her owners, Eildon Hill Racing. She began her career as a three-year-old over 5f moving up to 1m 2f before she retired age six.

“Rosie” arrived at our yard in October 2014 when I was looking for a potential eventer to bring on. A good friend of mine knew Rosie’s owners in the syndicate and before I knew it the deal was done. When she arrived on the lorry I had a bit of a surprise, she wasn’t quite the 16hh + horse I thought she was going to be. But armed with a collection of books and a multitude of web pages on retraining ex-racers I threw myself into guiding Rosie into a new career. It was clear from the start that Rosie wanted to keep her feet on the ground, even Cavaletti poles weren’t her cup of tea. But ask her to do anything on the flat and she tried her heart out. Mind you she always knew best, and any miscommunications resulted in a deep sigh from little Rosie – it was never her fault!

So a dressage diva it was! After only a year in training she won her first Area Festival at Elementary Open in 2015 and finished runner up in the Novice Open in the same year. Tragically she never got to go to Hartpury in 2016 after a horrendous field injury which left her with a two-foot gash down the inside of her hind leg. For a while it was touch and go if she would even survive, let alone return to the dressage arena again. But despite Rosie’s aversion to anyone in a white coat, after four months box rest and even longer building her back up to her “dancing fit” best she resumed her climb up the levels.

In 2017 she won another Area Festival at Advanced Medium and in 2018 Rosie had her “special year”. It kicked off with Rosie and I achieving the qualifying score at Advanced after which she was asked to lead out the RoR parade at the Ayr Scottish Grand National. A couple of wins in the Scottish RoR Championships later in the year were followed by her winning the RoR National Special Dressage competition at Aintree, the highest-level dressage competition for ex-racers in the UK. But Rosie wasn’t content to rest with that – she qualified for the British Dressage Area Festival Finals at PSG and to cap off the year she was voted Dressage Horse of the Year by the RoR and best ex-Racer at the Scottish Equestrian Awards.

Like everyone else COVID introduced a pause into Rosie’s competition career. Fortunately, with the ever present assistance of Pammy Hutton over Zoom continuing the relationship she has built with Rosie from the start of her dressage career, we had the technology to keep her training going. This paid off in 2021 when Rosie secured another three Area Festival sashes at PSG and Inter I and qualification to both the Winter and Summer Area Festival Championships at both levels.

All of this was achieved whilst I slowly began to realise that my right hip wasn’t going to last, and I certainly couldn’t continue taking the painkillers. So, I took the plunge and signed up for a hip replacement in February 2022. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be able to ride for a while and my other two horses were sent away to keep them busy. But Rosie kept me company at home, and she was the first horse I rode seven weeks after my operation. Two weeks later and we were cantering down the centreline at our first PSG of 2022 – because if we were to qualify for the Area Festivals there was no time to waste!

With qualifications secure it was time for a new challenge. Rosie certainly hadn’t forgotten all her tricks and with solid results at Inter I, I felt it was time to ask the next question. With the invaluable help of a local Grand Prix rider and trainer, Eilidh Grant, Rosie did not disappoint, gaining her first point at Inter II in July 2022 which was also a first for an ex-racer in the modern era for British Dressage.

Rosie competed at the British Dressage Area Festival Championships at Arena UK in October 2022 and followed that up with her (and my) first High Profile Show at Aintree later that month. But my ultimate goal was always to ride a Grand Prix test – Rosie had taken me such a long way already and we knew it was possible. On March 25 2023 we took the plunge and entered our first Grand Prix.

I was suffering from the worst case of nerves before a test that I can remember but Rosie remained calm and controlled. The test wasn’t perfect, I forgot to tell Rosie to stop in the one tempi changes and she ended up doing 17 instead of 15 and she’s still working on her passage and piaffe transitions but when the score came in we were delighted. 62.83% and our (and RoR’s) first Grand Prix points!

Needless to say, I was in floods of tears of relief, happiness, who knows. Rosie was much more grounded being more concerned with her treats and her hay net than any scoresheet or rosette!

Hopefully we will be able to qualify for the British Dressage Middle Tour Championship this year at Arena UK and we also hope to qualify for the RoR National Dressage Special Championship at Aintree by competing in the RoR Scottish Winter championships at the end of April. Who knows, maybe we will get the chance to bring our Grand Prix to Aintree in August.

Not bad for an RoR Chestnut mare with attitude!

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