Never give up
Horse & Hound|November 26, 2020
From Hyde Park bomb survivors to a fairytale Grand National winner, Kate Johnson tracks down horses who have made miraculous recoveries
Kate Johnson

“HE’S a mischief-maker; his stable’s like a padded cell,” laughs eventer Emma Hyslop-Webb of her adored 17-year-old Waldo III (Wally). “And he loves drama! If we’re hacking, and people are walking through the village, he thinks that’s his audience and we have to canter sideways.”

After 13 years together, Emma feels a very special bond and was worried when the vet agreed that Wally “wasn’t quite right” after two weeks’ rest following the Barroca International Horse Trials in Portugal last year. They were entered for their first Badminton just over two months later.

“No one knew what it was or if he would recover,” she remembers, as diagnoses such as meningitis and the fatal West Nile virus were ruled out with extensive tests including a spinal tap.

Far from recuperating from the unknown virus affecting his immune system, Wally contracted bacterial pneumonia as a secondary condition. While he battled, Emma moved into her horsebox to be nearer him, checking him every hour through the night, and installed cameras in his stable.

Progress was slow, though “the vet said, ‘As long as you can jump a drop fence, you’ll be good to go to Badminton,’” she recalls. And by some miracle, he did recover in time and they made it to the great event, though Emma knew that “the fitness lead-up wasn’t ideal”.

It was an emotional occasion. Emma’s head girl, Sophia Robinson, was also devoted to this horse and had helped nurse him better.

“She was so hands-on in his recovery that for her 21st birthday, I gifted her half of Wally,” Emma says. “So when we got to Badminton, she had her name announced as we went into the dressage arena.”

Recalling the cross-country, she says, “If I’d felt at any stage he couldn’t carry on, I’d have pulled up. We got to Huntsman’s Close, four or five out, I took a long route at the wall to make it easier, and I nursed him home. There’s a photo of me jumping the final fence at Badminton in tears. The whole team was in tears. It wasn’t just for me, it was for everyone.”

IT was also a team effort that saved Edwulf ’s life, the eight-year-old who collapsed on the run-in of the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2017. He was treated by the on-course vets behind green screens for well over an hour, delaying the last race.

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