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The second interview in the series of eventing with ex racehorses is with Lisa Spence from Hemps Green Equestrian.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how long have you been riding? Have you always been interested in eventing?
I have ridden all my life. First pony at 18 months! Now 44 years old!! Evented since pony club – could not do be then until you were 18! It was the horse trials section of the BHS! I started mainly showing and WHP but did pony club and eventing led from there. I was a former working pupil for William Fox- Pitt when I was 18 and rode at my first affiliated event on one of his horses. I worked mostly with his mother as he was still at uni.
Wow, working for William Fox-Pitt is an amazing achievement! Who is your ex racehorse? Tell us a bit about them.
I have ridden many ex racehorses over the years. I started on race horses at Williams helping back his mothers flat horses. So always had a passion for them. I worked as head girl to the late Libby Heath, training pointers and national hunt horses and rode a few winners point to point myself. Was never the best jockey as wanted to help the horses to much. Due to being poor and working in the horse industry and having lots of racing connections I have evented many ex racehorses.
The most notable a little horse called Douraj who went up to intermediate. Most recently I rode two one called Tough Customer and one called Lucky Stars these are both by the same sire and owned by the same owners. Richard and Trudie Bishop. They are not your normal wealthy owners but live the dream of being event horse owners with there little ex race horses.
Tough Customer has a great record from 80 – 100 he is side lined simply as they can’t afford to run both and the mare needs the education. She has had three 80 runs and been double clear and placed in all. She did her first 90 at HorseHeath again SJ clear but had a glance off at the wishing well. She runs at Keysoe on Monday in another 90.
It’s fantastic to hear that owners just love to be involved in the sport, even at the lower levels with ex racehorses. Did you retrain them for eventing yourself?
I have trained all of my horses myself with help from my trainer Anna Fraser Wilks BHSI who is based just outside Newmarket and who also has strong racing connections.
What level are you currently competing at?
I compete up to intermediate with a variety of horses.
What are your aims for the next couple of seasons? And what other horses do you ride?
I run an equestrian centre and currently use several ex racehorses in the school. My aims are to continue to grow my business Hemps Green Equestrian, I hope to run my homebred Fidget in a two star this season and progress Lucky Stars to 100, I hope to give the ride on Tough Customer to my head girl Pip Wyncol so he can be aimed at Badminton grass roots as I am not eligible.
I hope Lucky Stars may have scope to progress further but only time will tell! Desert Fox is currently competing at 100 and should go novice very shortly, Nicholai did his first novice at Whitfield last week and runs novice again at Keysoe. I hope he will be intermediate before the end of this season.
I also ride a 18hh giant called Eyebrook Cosmos. Part shire! Couldn’t be further from a TB if you tried! He has had two wins already this season at 90 and 100 and I hope he will go novice shortly. He should run at Keysoe 100 if ground is good enough. The beauty of the TB is they generally love the firm. The sire x definitely doesn’t!
Is there anything which stands out to you that makes an ex racehorse/thoroughbred special for eventing?
I am a TB/ex racehorse fan. I understand them – they have to be trained , they are not natural like a warmblood. They often have a useless SJ technique when you start them and they take a while to understand ditches banks steps water etc. But it’s like you have a check list and each time it’s learnt it’s learnt and you progress. The warmbloods can have an amazing technique jump boldly into water when you first take them then two weeks later when they have had time to think about it and won’t go near it! If you spend the time with a racehorse they learn and are amazingly trainable. You have to remember they love work. The more you put in the more you get out. Too many people have no idea how much work they will take. This is an advantage if you are prepared to work but if your looking for a twice a week ride it might be eventful.
Is there anything which stands out as being particularly challenging when asking an ex racehorse to event?
The challenging thing is getting a decent farrier as they all have rubbish feet my farrier Steve Rust is a diamond with them.
Would you consider another ex racehorse for your next event horse?
Yes I would always consider and ex racehorse. My only criteria is they must come out of racing sound, preferably from a known trainer and ideally word of mouth.
Do you think more could be done to show how adaptable ex racehorses are?
The ex race horse is very adaptable it’s just not him that needs the education it’s the people who buy them. They are the most trainable of all breeds in my opinion and they are always eternally grateful to be out of racing, but people must be aware they need work. It’s a bit like buying a greyhound. They are fantastic dogs if you exercise them regularly and keep them challenged but they don’t make great lap dogs!
Thank you so much Lisa! It was fantastic hearing about your horses and your experiences with ex racehorses! Good luck for the rest of the season and we will keep our eye out for you at Events!