An emotional Sophie breaks the news that top horse Valerius is injured...
So it’s probably about time I let you all know that unfortunately at the end of last year Reece sustained a suspensory injury in both hind legs and had investigations at Newmarket in January and started treatment from there. It’s taken time for me to come to terms with this, I was hoping he had another couple of years in him, being 16 this year, but this certainly changes things, and his career is unlikely to continue how I’ve known it, especially over the past few years.
It’s fair to say I was heartbroken at the news as Reece has been a massive part of my life and career over the past 11 years. He was completely not what I was looking when I was 16, the gangly four-and-a-half year old that was already over 17 hands, but he looked like the horse I had to sell to be able to buy him (Rodney) and I fell in love with his character. And he’s never grown up, is a labrador, and is always in to everything. He’s the guard dog of the yard and always knows when something isn’t right. He’s big and bolshy and in your face, but he’s also the softest, sweetest horse underneath it all, he just likes to hide it! He knows when I’m not feeling quite right and his demeanour changes completely. He’s needy to me, but I love him to the moon and back, I would do absolutely anything for him.
He was there before I won my first medal and has helped me win nine golds and three silver medals at European, World and Paralympic Games since. I won my first individual Paralympic gold medal on him in Rio which was so special. And the journey we have been on together has been immense. From the broken ribs right at the beginning, him not letting us catch him in the stable and having to live in a headcollar (which didn’t always help), running off with us when he was in an open space despite having a bridle and lunge line on, refusing to load for hours on end, ripping far too many boots and bandages to remember, throwing strops when I rode other horses particularly in the early days, or if he wasn’t the first to go out. He even had attention seeking colic episodes.
He’s so noise sensitive which caused us problems, but we soon learnt ear plugs would be everyone’s saviour when it came to prize givings and he was a different horse. No one wanted to volunteer to trot him up at internationals for his airs above the ground, but this just makes him Reece. We went to the Nationals numerous times and competed up all the levels nationally to Grand Prix, which was a dream come true last year.
He has never been the most talented, but he loved the attention that work brought, and we sure put in a lot of work over the years to develop him to the horse he became with the help of Angela. He has the heart of a lion, even though he was on occasions a mouse, and could also be so so stubborn... but at the end of it all, he’s needed me, and that’s what has made our journey so special, we have done it together. I couldn’t be prouder of him, and I couldn’t love him more. I'll probably go grey much earlier than I should because of him, worrying how he is in so many situations, one of which was his journey to Rio, and self-harming before every championship he was selected for. But I’ve been fortunate to have 11 years without any serious injury and I’m so so grateful for that.
He’s played a massive part in making me the rider and trainer I am today and will always be with me, in my heart. So for now we take week by week, and I will stay positive in the belief miracles can happen. Of course we don’t really have seven years for him to have off like Touchdown did (he will always be the come back king) but I really hope he can return to having a role and a purpose in his own head, in some form, and I will do everything I can.
Thank you to everyone who has been there on his journey and made a difference, and to those who have supported us in the past few months that have been fairly difficult...