LAST year, Kate Morgan’s mare Cheeky was given only a 50 per cent chance of survival when she underwent an emergency operation.
No wonder some tears were shed last weekend when Kate and Cheeky romped home to win a horse trials at Eland Lodge in Derbyshire.
Not only was it an amazing comeback for Cheeky, it was a first-time win for Kate, who has been eventing for 16 years.
“I’ve had a second and a few thirds but never a win. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said Kate, who works in the family’s pig farming business at Pockthorpe, near Driffield.
She got Cheeky four years ago as a youngster and spent two years concentrating on the basics with her.
Last April, they started eventing at BE90 level and quickly progressed up to Novice.
Kate planned to spend the winter working on show-jumping and dressage but everything came to a sudden halt after Allerton Horse Trials in September.
They hit a fence on the cross-country course but continued without mishap. When they finished, Kate found a small cut on the horse’s stifle (knee joint) which was attended to. But after a few days back home, the horse had become quite lame and Kate’s vet discovered the joint was badly infected.
“We were given an option of operating with a 50 per cent chance of success, or putting her down which was not an option,” said Kate.
It took a second operation to fully clear the infection and Cheeky was finally allowed home on box rest.
There were a few more scares when the horse had to be rushed back to the vet in Malton and another when Kate was away on a long planned holiday in Argentina.
Cheeky developed an infection in her neck and needed a further operation.
“Finally she seemed to be on the right track and I was allowed to turn her out. It was just fantastic to see her in the field,” said Kate.
After Christmas she started to walk Cheeky, who soon began to get fitter to the point where she was able to school her.
They returned to have lessons with Charlotte Wilson at Snainton Riding Centre, which meant going back to basics and some hard work.
Says Kate: “She was going so well, so I took her to a number of local dressage and show-jumping classes and last Sunday, at her first horse trials, a BE100 Open, couldn’t have gone any better.
“We flew round the cross-country and as I crossed the finishing line I was nearly crying. I had no idea what score I had got but Cheeky was back and running better than ever and that was emotional enough for me.”
In spite of a vet’s bill of over £5,000, she says: “It was so worth it. Even if I hadn’t had the result, just riding her again would be enough.”
Their next competition will be at Bradwell at the beginning of May followed by Chatsworth Horse Trials.
“We’ll aim for a one-star this summer and hopefully keep on going. Fingers crossed she’ll make it big style,” added Kate.