“I was told to put him down’: horse found so emaciated he could not stand enjoys showjumping success

  • A standardbred who two years ago was so weak, emaciated and lice-ridden that he could not get to his feet has beaten the odds to become a successful showjumper.

    Martina Wright and the 12-year-old Son of a Preacher Pan came third in the 1m class at Burgham International Horse Trials last weekend, two years after Martina was told he should be put down.

    Martina said H&H she was asked by a friend, who races standardbreds, if she would take the horse on.

    “He’d put him out on loan and when he went to check him, he found him in that state,” she said.

    “He was covered in lice and so, so skinny. When we got him back, he rolled and didn’t have it in him to get up; he was like a newborn foal trying to stand. He tried twice, then just lay there and let out this massive sigh, as if to say ‘This is it, isn’t it?’

    “We got a telehandler and used four ratchet straps, covered with rugs so they didn’t pull him, and we had to hold him up for two days.”

    Martina said she was told by an equestrian professional that if she did not have the horse put down, they would report her.

    “I said ‘You’ll have to report me then, I’m giving this horse a chance’,” she said. “Last Saturday, he came third at Burgham.”

    Martina gradually nursed Preacher back to health, with controlled feeding and turnout to ensure he gained condition safely. By later that summer, she was able to start working with him.

    “You couldn’t lunge him, and he was all ‘What do you want?’ at first, but we got him going,” she said. “We started him over poles, and even over those, he showed scope; we thought ‘This horse wants to jump’.

    “His paddock is where the jumps are and he pops himself over them. Because he’s a pacer, he struggled a bit at first and he still can’t quite get the hang of one-stride doubles but he’s so careful, he gets through them. He didn’t have a clue at first but now he’s got the scope and the technique of a £40,000 showjumper.”

    Martina plans to try eventing next year; he still has some issues with canter-trot transitions, she said, but “nothing is an issue; nothing bothers him”.

    “I thought when I got him, he’d be a companion,” she said. “Never for one minute did I think my jumping mare would have retired and he’d take her place; I never even expected him to be a happy hacker.”

    Martina wanted to share her story not only to show how versatile standardbreds can be, but also to give hope to others.

    “It doesn’t always have to be the end of the road,” she said. “He loves life and he loves his job.”

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