I have written this tribute article in celebration of Stevey’s HOYS achievements, one year on from the accident which cost him his life on his journey home from HOYS 2013. I hope his story inspires other racehorse owners to pursue their dreams – especially the chestnut ones who fly the flag in his memory.
Ever since I was a child, it was always my dream to ride at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show. In 2012, the dream became reality.
Just four months into retraining at my DIY livery yard, Stevey clinched his HOYS ticket in the electric atmosphere at Burghley Horse Trials, September 2012. Butterflies danced in my stomach as we were escorted, as a group, to themain arena. Stevey remained cool and focused to deliver another beautiful performance – to match his wins at Ponies UK Summer Championships and The British Elite Championships, which we used as our HOYS warm up. Tears streamed in utter shock as we cantered our lap of honour and the crowd cheered: all the early morning schooling sessions, hours of grooming, trips to the yard to rug and feed four times a day, had finally paid off, proving that hard work, determination and persistence can pay off! We made our way back through the masses of spectators to the horsebox where Stevey was untacked and enjoyed a roll and some grass on the showground – happy and relaxed in his new job. His favourite sweet treats were Palma Violets – and he certainly earned a few packets on this day!
We entered the HOYS 2012 Qualifying Story competition and with just three weeks to battle for the public’s vote, we finished in runner up position – a huge surprise on arrival at the show to find our photo and story in the program. Stevey’s story was also recognised by Equilibrium Products who selected us as their September Rising Stars winner. My great uncle was a huge racing fan, and my partner an ex professional national hunt jockey, and so I couldn’t think of a more perfect class to experience and to share with my family than the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse class.
After arranging cover in my secondary school teaching job, I was granted half a day leave from work so that I could travel to the NEC, Birmingham the day before my class, in a horsebox hired to me from a friend.
That evening, I introduced Stevey to The Caldene Arena: the dream factory! I allowed him to have a five minute walk around before we headed back up to his stable and attempted to get a good night’s sleep ready for our early start, for as well as riding Stevey, I was blessed to have a second ride on former HOYS Hack winner: Time Out, who I qualified at Stithians Show for the Large Intermediate Show Riding Type.
With the help of my friend and groom Claire Batterbee, Stevey looked beautiful and ready to shine that afternoon. Never have I felt as proud of a horse as I did of Stevey when we took our first steps in to The Caldene Arena in front of our friends. He gave me the most beautiful ride on the go-round and was pulled in 5th. I didn’t know what to expect from him and after watching the class in previous years and understanding how tense the atmosphere could be, I was a little apprehensive; however, Stevey gave a mannerly ride and was un-phased during the clapping and cheering when the results were called. Stevey finished 7th and we enjoyed a good gallop in our lap of honour – a priceless, emotional and simply magical experience. I finally had a beautiful HOYS medal rosette!
The next morning, we travelled home with the sun shining. Stevey had his ears pricked and nose poking through the window bars – as happy as ever! I admired him in the back of the horsebox as Claire drove us home – he was the perfect stamp of Thoroughbred; my best friend; the provider of my wildest dreams and I thanked him for the special relationship we had formed. I felt truly blessed for everything he had done for me. He was a great listener and the kindest and most gentle natured horse I have ever come across.
In 2013, I qualified Stevey for HOYS for the second season running in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse Class. I made the 5.5 hour journey south to Somerset, with my friend Claire Batterbee, who groomed for me once again, and with Stevey’s show tack and grooming box in tow. Stevey mirrored his 2012 qualificationresult and stood 2nd to Sister Gee ridden by Jill Wormall in a strong class of 32, with 2013 HOYS winner Deep Reflection standing in 3rd place to us. As judges Sarah Chapman and David Bartram awarded Stevey the precious purple sash, I cried uncontrollably and hugged him tightly – he really was a once in a life time animal, and we proved that even when living seven hours apart in 2013, we had an unbreakable bond, and simply clicked back together like a jigsaw piece.
On October 12th I arrived at HOYS ready to compete the following morning. The rain was torrential and so I decided to only use the working in slot on the morning of the class. Stevey was very unsettled during the working in time but managed to hold it together for his class to be awarded 9th place – this time with my mum in the crowd to watch us have our final ride together. We cantered around to the HOYS music with our orange rosette – very appropriate for an orange man, a name which he adopted very quickly after I met him at his racing yard in April 2012!
I didn’t say goodbye to Stevey. Seeing him at shows throughout 2013 was always emotional and I was always blubbering and so I didn’t want to cry or say good bye at HOYS. Therefore, my final memory of Stevey is walking back to the HOYS stable with a huge smile on my face. I am so grateful that I spent the final day of his life with him, at the biggest show in the world, in the prime of his life. Although he is no longer here, I know he has touched the hearts of many both before I met him, during his showing career and through his death. I still see small parts of him through the new partnerships of others, and since becoming an ROR judge in January 2014, I have found some comfort in watching other racehorse like him make progress as show horses. Thoroughbreds make such amazing friends and although Stevey gave me such cherished success, primarily, he was my friend.
Stevey was best known for his bright orange coat, his twitchy pink nose and his dazzling four white socks; twinkle toes, as I sometimes called them. He had beautiful, kind brown eyes and alert, pricked ears. Stevey enjoyed living out in his field where we would often share a glass of wine on a 2012 summer’s day after exercise. He used to nibble slowly at his food and walk over to meet me at his field gate – everything so laid back. But he was less keen on being bathed or sprayed and quite often I ended up wetter than he did or chasing him around in a circle, which makes me chuckle to reminisce about these moments!
Thank you for the best memories and your friendship Ste... you will always be missed and never forgotten about, especially at Horse of the Year Show, where you spent the last day of your life with the people who loved your dearly…
We toasted Stevey's life and happy memories with some Bucks Fizz and Palma Violets - symbolic of our happy show memories and celebrations together.
I then gained closure on this very tough year by writing my final messages to him and releasing them on an orange heart shaped balloon. This was a very special moment to share with friends whose support, friendship and kindness has been amazing. Thank you to you all...
We then enjoyed a beautiful three course meal at the local pub and had lots of giggles and happy tears.