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Success stories Mr. Dib Dab: A different kind of success

4th July 2024

by Vicky Rowson

We all have hopes and dreams for our former racehorses. For some, it's about enjoying a peaceful hack, transforming a finely tuned equine athlete into a precision-trained dressage horse, or finally completing a cross-country course without feeling like you're living on the edge. However, personal success with former racehorses can come in many shapes and sizes.

Over the years, I've been fortunate to own several former racehorses. After taking a break from horse ownership and riding, I recently decided it was time to get another horse. It was always going to be a Thoroughbred for me, despite considering other breeds. In my experience, you know what you're getting with a Thoroughbred: they can be sharp, sensitive, and incredibly reactive. If you find one that isn't, it's a bonus!

I began asking around in the racing industry, looking for a National Hunt horse that had already had some downtime. I didn't mind an older horse or one with some battle scars, if they were sound enough to enjoy a countryside hack.

As life would have it, I ended up buying a five-year-old ex-flat horse just a few days out of his last race at Wolverhampton! I could see he was going to be a handful the minute I saw him, and I was told he needed some quiet time. "Why did you buy him?" I was asked a week later when every morning a fire-breathing dragon emerged from the stable, and I was seriously going to end up with one arm longer than the other. My only answer was the truth: because he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen.

Then our journey began. Despite my experience with racehorses, Dib Dab was difficult. He had strong opinions and was, and still is, far too clever for his own good. I quickly came to appreciate that the world he had always known had been turned upside down, and he was struggling to adjust to his new life. Dreams of dressage tests and fun rides had to be put on hold. This horse needed a different approach to retraining. I had to put myself in his shoes and understand that he was struggling to adjust to his new life. Every day, I told him it would be okay, and every day, I promised him that I would never give up on him.

To say Dib Dab was challenging is an understatement, but he is also the most rewarding horse I've ever had the privilege to own. Two years on, the demons have finally left Mr. Dib Dab's head. Through patience on both sides, we have achieved mutual trust and respect. Like humans, some horses need to find their inner peace before they can move forward successfully, and the original goals have to be put on hold.

The reason for sharing Dib Dab's story, albeit a different kind of success story, is to remind us never to give up on these beautiful, brave and intelligent horses. They are all different and sometimes retraining just takes a bit longer than originally planned, and that's okay.

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