Success stories The tale of Sunningdale Rose - by Kathryn Dellow

29th May 2020

Sunningdale Rose, now known as Rose, came to our little yard for a break from racing in 2014. She was very skinny and all legs with a pretty face. The plan was for her to be turned away for a couple of months before returning to racing but I’d fallen for her and couldn’t let her go, so I bought her!

As she was so young and had her entire racing career as a 2yo I wanted to turn her away for at least a year to be a horse and we’d work on manners, handling and building condition. She joined my mum's pony and my retired loan pony (who at the time was approaching 30) in the field.

I’ve grown up and been around horses since I could walk, it’s all I’ve known. I was only a year in to my recovery from scoliosis correction surgery when I bought Rose, so in some aspects I was concerned about retraining a former racehorse. I’d never been involved with any kind of training with horses and of course doubted if I’d done the right thing. Could I bring out the best in her? I had no idea what to do!

We started with manners and handing, she was a gem. She’s a fast learner even to this day. From standing up on the yard nicely to lifting her hooves to be picked out, waiting for her dinner to be placed on the floor, being groomed and lowering her head for her bridle, she grasped what I was asking. But we have had a few tantrums and cross words along the way but we understand each other and were like two peas in a pod.

After a year turned away, I got Rose lunging and used to every day riding tack. I struggled with my confidence post-surgery and always thought the worst would happen and before I sat on Rose for the first time it took me a lot of strength and a good talking to in my head to take that step. My mum has supported me and is helping me throughout retraining and even now I ask for her advice. She had Rose on a lunge line for my reassurance; I remember closing my eyes from when my foot left the mounting block to when I was in the saddle. Rose was a star, she just stood there without a care in the world. I opened my eyes and just smiled and patted her on the neck, she turned her neck to look at me as if to say, ‘no big deal’. I was on top of the world, another step in the right direction on our retraining process.

The most spectacular thing I’d ever seen came when my loan pony was going blind in her old age (her hearing wasn’t the best either) when the evenings would draw in she’d struggle to navigate across the fields. Rose became what I like to call a guide horse for her, she’d walk beside her, nuzzling and nudging in the direction of the gate until she was safely out of the field and into her stable. I still can’t get over it and what she was doing. She’s just amazing.

We have been together for just over 6 years now, I don’t compare ourselves to what other people are doing or how far they have come. We’re happy and doing our own thing and that’s what matters and when we finally got out hacking it was the absolute best feeling, it’s like everything we’d been working towards was finally coming together. It made our bond stronger and I trust her completely. She’s always looked after me, never been too silly, it’s like she knows what I’ve been through and knows that I’m always a little cautious so she takes care of me when I’m on board.

Today she’s everything I could have possibly have wanted out of her and more. She’s a sensible hack with impeccable manners and an absolute joy to be around. I always wanted her to be the sort of horse you can just tack up and go and she’s exactly that. Don’t get me wrong, she does give me the odd attitude problem but no one’s perfect, she is a mare after all. Her character is just the best and our bond now is like no other, there’s not a day where she doesn’t make me laugh!

Former racehorses unfortunately still come with a stereotypical label, I have found that they are the most loving gentle giants with so much heart to give and strive to make people happy.

It’s hard to briefly explain and tell our story in a short read, there’s so many more stories in our re-training process. She has and continues to teach me a lot about myself and we’ve made each other better and stronger. Rose has given me her whole heart, she holds mine and we're the best of friends. She’s my baby. By far she is the most rewarding achievement in my life so far.

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