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Success stories Sam and Ollie’s Story - You could say I have always had a thing for former racehorses

7th November 2022

Written by Samantha Treharne

My younger sister Gabby, and I learnt to ride on our Nan Judy’s, ex racer, Jeeves. Hacking him out the lead rein when we were just toddlers. In our eyes, no one could replace him. Jeeves was so special, and simply amazing. When Gabby and I were growing up, we had always promised we would buy a horse together, and of course, it would be a former racehorse.

In March 2021, we lost our darling Gabby, suddenly and unexpectedly; she was just 17. I could not believe it and I did not want to believe it. A few weeks passed by and after some thought and careful consideration; I knew without a doubt what I had to do. I kept the promise Gabby and I had made, all those years ago, when we were just children. Although I was excited and eager to make our promise a reality, I was in no rush. This horse had to be exceptional and extraordinary and like nothing you had seen before…

A friend of mine Marie McGuinness, who also happens to be my boyfriend’s Mum, had been to The Doncaster Bloodstock Sales in May 2021. Marie had managed to find an unnamed, unraced gelding, who stood at roughly 16.2hh and was 4 years old. She turned him away for the summer and mentioned that when I was ready, I needed to pop over and see him, as ‘he really is something special, Sam’. I was unsure, when I was going to be ready, to take the first steps of mine and Gabby’s promise, but of course, I agreed to view him…

Marie was right, and it was love at first sight. I remember the very first time I saw him, trotting around his field, so elegant and athletic. I watched Marie, lunge him and after that, she rode him. He had not put a hoof out of place whilst I had been there, and he had the kindest most loving eyes, I had ever seen.

After sleeping on the idea for a few nights, I agreed to head back to McGuinness HQ, and ride him. Once again, his manners, temperament and attitude mesmerised me. We rode in a large outdoor arena with other horses, flapping banners and many other distractions; however, despite the drama, Ollie and I were very settled together.

That evening, I went home to my parents, and spoke with then about using some of Gabby’s money along with some of mine to purchase him. Although it was a difficult and emotional conversation, we all agreed it was the perfect and right thing to do.

We picked Ollie up the day after Dad’s birthday. During the drive home, Dad said ‘What have you done Sam? Is he really the one?’ On arrival, we turned Ollie out into his paddock. He trotted around exploring his new home. I watched Dad watching Ollie, and he smiled. Dad knew when he saw him settled, calm and showing his presence, he was the one and what we all needed to help us on our journey of heeling.

Not long after Ollie arrived home, Gabby’s best friend came over to meet him. She could not believe how playful and mischievous he was and said, ‘That’s Gabby’s horse, look he can’t even eat his dinner without throwing his feed bowl across the field’. Gabby always made us laugh and smile.

Living in such a close-knit rural community it was not long before the whole village knew about Ollie, and they came to welcome him.

The next big hurdle (no pun intended!) was his name, although his stable name is Ollie his passport was blank. Luckily, Ollie was in training with Tom Lacey, before he found his way to us and because he had never raced, it was up to us to name him. Everyone told me I had to name him because he is eligible for RoR and of course, everyone had some ideas too!

Ollie could not have just any name. I had my heart set on words that incorporated Gabby. Our Physio visited to check Ollie over and whilst she was treating him, we spoke about some of the ideas of names for him. During the hour she was with us, she used the word ‘legacy’ and that was stuck in my heart. I could not shake it, but what goes with ‘legacy’?

As a family, we used to call Gabby, ‘Gabster’, and as the days went along the penny dropped… Ollie is now called ‘Gabster’s Legacy’. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, whenever I hear it, and there is a fire in my tummy, I just cannot explain.

At the start of our journey, we built a rapid bond and the trust us grew stronger every day, with us both. We did the basics together in the beginning, lots of grooming, in hand walks, and eventually it was time to get on. I walked on foot for a short time. We were both relaxed, calm and in the environment we had developed together, I got on.

I am very lucky to have a supportive boyfriend, Mike, who helps Ollie and me with our confidence, whenever we are unsure when out hacking, Mike, will walk on ahead in front and our confidence in restored.

My focus for our first six months together was to go hacking and perhaps have some lessons to build our confidence, before our first competition, a year down the line. Fortunately for me, and of course without surprise, Ollie was so laid back we were out competing within five months. The first competition was perfect, and Ollie was a super star, we were even placed!

Gabby and I had never considered purchasing anything other than an ex-racehorse, and I have been thinking about what makes them so special. Of course, it is understood they, like humans are all different, they are athletics, so versatile, and with quirks to make you laugh from your stomach, until it hurts. It is not a surprise, because so many people choose them. Some enjoy dressage, or show jumping or hunting more than the other does, and yet others will enjoy everything. I did not put any pressure on Ollie to excel in a specific discipline, however it turns out Ollie loves it all, and so we are Eventers! Wow, I didn’t think I’d be saying that 8 months ago.

So far, we have completed two, one day events and placed 10th and 7th respectively, and most recently, we stepped up to an 80cm hunter trial, which he flew round, and placed 3rd!

Our plan for the winter months, is to focus on dressage and show jumping, to continue building our confidence together. We are lucky enough to have some fabulous equestrian facilitates not far from home, and with this in mind, I hope we will enter BE in the Summer of 2023.

Losing Gabby was extremely difficult and truly devastating, however slowly but surely Ollie, has helped me with my grief, as well as giving me a purpose to get up every morning. Ollie is my one and only at the moment when it comes to talking about Gabby and being in his presence is comforting. He has given me something to focus on.

It took me a while to fall back in love with riding after losing my sister, because as much as I wanted another horse, I had not thought about how difficult it would be riding without her. When I am with Ollie I think about Gabby a lot, and we were both at our happiest when riding together on the Quantock Hills.

Gabby had a ‘go hard or go home’ attitude about everything and anything. With that being said I try my best to channel all my worries and doubts into the mantra Gabby had. Gabby always got the very best out of me and as I naturally over analyse and overthink everything.

Although Gabby and I were sisters, we were different in some ways, but always the same when riding together. When I ride Ollie over the Quantock Hills, I know Gabby is with us, watching us and keeping us safe.

Hearing the commentator saying his name, ‘Gabster’s Legacy’ whilst competing is a struggle and I have to fight the tears, channelling all my energy into doing the best I can for Ollie and I.

Every time I am with Ollie, Gabby is there, wherever we are. I often think about what would have happened if Gabs had not left us so soon, but I would have not got a look in, as she always would be the one riding!

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