Ex-racer Basil battles lameness and comes out a winner

Katie Stephen, eventing horse rider, Sunnyside, by Old Orchard with her horse Basil and The Eric Gillie Horse Transport Trophy.
Katie Stephen, eventing horse rider, Sunnyside, by Old Orchard with her horse Basil and The Eric Gillie Horse Transport Trophy.

Last year, vets warned Hawick horse lover Katie Stephen she may have to put the most talented horse she has owned to sleep.

Last month, Hurricane Basil won the retraining of racehorses section at the Border Union Show at his first show after recovering from his potentially career-ending stifle injury.

Katie said: “I was very emotional when we were called forward as the winner. I couldn’t believe it.

“I was happy just to be there competing on him, so to win was overwhelming. Mum and I were both in tears.”

The former Borders College horse care student bought Basil four years ago.

She told The Southern: “The morning I went to see him he had thrown the (previous) girl off but when I tried him, I really loved him.”

The 16.2hh grey, now 12, had won pointing but not gained success racing for Jedburgh trainer Raymond Shiels.

Katie retrained him to do dressage, show jump and cross country. However, he had achieved his best result in eventing so far – coming third in his second pre-novice run at Burgham Horse Trails, near Morpeth, when he went badly lame.

“The prognosis at the beginning wasn’t good. The vets said he might well never recover,” said Katie. And she faced the prospect of having to put him down.

She added: “I was really, really upset to hear that because he is so special.

“He’s not only a lovely personality, he’s so talented.”

He spent nine months resting on Willie and Carol Douglas’ farm outside Hawick.

Katie said: “He was in a cattle shed so he could move about but not run around, to give it a chance to mend.”

And when Katie brought him out, he was sound.

She revealed: “I was over the moon, I couldn’t believe it, it was such a relief.

“I had to psych myself up to start to ride him because I was obviously really worried he could go lame again. I took it gradually and worked him really carefully.”

Apart from Katie’s care, Hawick equine sports massage therapist Kate Mactaggart saw Basil and he is on a joint supplement.

Katie has five horses, four of whom are ex-racehorses, at Sunnyside, Hawick, where she looks after James and Nin Vestey’s six horses and ponies.

She bought her first horse – an ex-racehorse – while in her teens.

Katie commented: “And that was it. I really enjoyed retraining the horse and I’ve kept doing it since.

“I have always been around horses. Mum had horses, I have had a pony since I was five, and I think I was sat on the back of a horse when I was a couple of days old.

“I probably can’t put it into words why I love horses so much. They are amazing animals, you get so much back from them.

“The vets are still not very positive about Basil’s injury but at the moment he’s sound and I’m going to take every day as it comes and see how far we can get.

“I really couldn’t have done it without my Mum. I owe everything to her.”

To follow Katie’s work, find her at Thistle Thoroughbreds on Facebook.