24. "You was robbed"

Blog 24 – “You was robbed”

While we could no longer compete “under rules” we did, from time to time take him out to shows which were not HOYS qualifiers and Mac qualified for The Blue Chip £2000 Challenge, a class open only to pure and part-bred Irish Draughts as a 5, 6, 7 and 8 year old.  Due to other commitments we only attended the show twice, once when he was 5 and again when he was 7 (the show was held in September and I lost him in August when he was 8).  The final was held at The Irish Draught Show and pre-judging of the 100 or so finalists took place during the day, with the final 14 going forward to the Championship in an Evening Performance.
Mac winning the Young Horse Championship at the I.D. Show

Unsurprisingly we did not get through to the final 14 when Mac was only 5, although we did win the “Ridden Young Horse Championship”, open to 4, 5 and 6 year olds that year.
When he was 7 we did get selected as one of the final 14, Mac was a star in prejudging and the championship – riding him around the ring I felt confident that he was going to place in the top 7.  Once again prizes were awarded in reverse order, as we were not pulled in 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, or 2nd and I was sure we were going to win it – but we didn’t.  

As we filed out of the ring with the others not-placed a number of other competitors expressed their surprise and said that they had thought Mac had “got it”.  Although disappointed Chris and I took a philosophical view, it just wasn’t to be, but we had had a lovely weekend just the three of us anyway.  We got Mac settled for the night in the temporary stabling and made our way back to our horsebox to find two cans of gin and tonic weighing down an anonymous card on the steps to the living, the card read “You was robbed.”  To this day we do not know who went out of their way to leave this gift and note but it made us smile and we enjoyed the G&T!

Mac takes Supreme at The Wayland County Show
Mac lived out and the night before he was due to defend his Supreme Championship at The Wayland County Show I brought him on to the yard at 4pm for a pre-show bath.  Mac revelled in show-prep but seemed subdued so I opened a stable door to see if he wanted to go in.  Normally he would choose not to but he walked quietly in, lay flat out on his side and within minutes was covered in a black sweat.  At 4.15pm with Mac’s head in my lap I called the vet who thought it was colic and the decision was made to go immediately to Newmarket.  On arrival it was quickly established that it was not colic but peritonitis and that his organs were failing.  At 6pm we let “Blackmoor Mac Rua” go to his mother “Red”.

It is thought that the stress to his system due to his difficult start in life had damaged his digestive system which had probably always been leaking toxins.  I will never recover from the loss of Mac but the experience has led me to a greater understanding of the physical as well as emotional toll of hand-reared horses and while I would have done anything to stop Mac from having to have suffered in the way he did in his last few hours nothing can take away the memories of the happy times we had together – inside and outside of the showring.

Thankfully there are many disciplines and governing bodies that do allow riders to compete barefoot, but as the prevalence and success of barefoot horses grows we are likely to face the concerns and criticisms from those who do not understand, who are fearful and ignorant.  While I choose not to compete anymore (the barefoot debacle being only one of the reasons why) I choose to prioritise enjoying the time I have with my horses (as Mac’s story illustrates we don’t know how long we’ve got) and I wish you all the joy and happiness which horses can bring – whatever you choose to do the for the best of your horses.
Mac's 2nd and last visit to the HOYS Grand Ring

Finally, sometimes there is a “Best Shod Horse” prize which is judged by a member of the Worshipful Society of Master Farriers.  On one occasion the Master Farrier approached Mac, politely doffed his hat to me and as Mac stood square and attentive on the grass-surfaced show ring he bent down to pick up one of Mac’s naked front feet.  He inspected it thoroughly, put it down and continued to do the same with his other three feet in turn.  Then he took his notepad and pencil from his jacket pocket, licked the pencil’s tip and as he wrote in his notepad his told me, “Well, I’ll give you six out of six for your trim.”  Putting his pad and pencil back in to his pocket and just before he moved on to judge the next horse he leaned towards me and whispered, “Nothing worse for a horse’s foot than a ring of metal.” And that is where our story finally ends.

Next time, "No Words" published 27th April.

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video downloads www.ashenec.co.uk

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