Winning return for rider and horse who have overcome heart attack and cancer
- Credit: Spidge Event Photography
A Norfolk rider who suffered a heart attack and his prizewinning horse that has overcome a rare form of cancer have proved themselves comeback kings.
Prolific show champion Allister Hood, from Diss, and his horse Our Cashel Blue overcame their health scares to win at the Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby Meeting.
Mr Hood, who has won the Supreme Horse championship at Hickstead a total of seven times, and has been showing at the top level for 50 years, was taken ill at home near Diss in April last year. He was hospitalised at the Royal Papworth, which specialises in heart conditions.
But while he returned to the show ring at the end of last season, the recovery for his champion horse, which had won nearly every prize there is to win, has been slower after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
The horse underwent surgery to remove a large tumour in his shoulder in the hope of containing the spread, followed by a lengthy rehabilitation process.
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"He was the most amazing patient," said Mr Hood. "It was a pretty long winter, and by the end of it, he felt like he was ready to explode. But he never did; he was so sensible."
By Christmas Blue's recovery was progressing and as a special treat, he was turned out for the first time in months to enjoy a canter around his paddock.
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"He had a gallop, and a buck, and a really good roll in the mud, but luckily the grass ended up being much more tempting," said Mr Hood.
Remarkably the pair was reunited at Hickstead last weekend winning the I.C.E. Horseboxes Supreme Cob Championship at the prestigious event in West Sussex.
Mr Hood said each ride with his stable superstar is a privilege. "We were always hopeful that the cancer hadn't spread, but the vets told us that we'd never know until he suddenly got very sick or lost weight," he explains. "Now, we're just enjoying every moment we have with him and taking each day as it comes."
It was not the only Hickstead triumph for the Diss-based horse dynasty. Mr Hood's son Oliver rode Kellythorpes Master Key to the top spot in the I.C.E. Horseboxes Supreme Coloured Horse Ridden Championships - his second win in as many years.
And there was more Norfolk success with Gissing-based Jonathan Egmore claiming top honours in the Al Shira'aa British Five-Year-Old Jumping Championship with Passilano.