Retirement isn’t always the preferred option and, in the case of former racehorse Jacksonville, 18 years old was far too early to be going out to grass.
Lindean’s Diana Taylor thought so too.
And, last Thursday, a dream came true for horse and owner when Jacksonville, fondly known as Jack, ridden by Steven Renton, won the Tattersalls and Retraining of Racehorses (ROR) Thoroughbred Ridden Show Horse Championship at the Royal Highland Show.
“It was very emotional for everyone involved,” said Diana, who took possession of her four-legged charge four years ago.
“He’s a dream horse and has really thrived in the world of showing.”
In all, there were 24 horses in the class, each having qualified at different ROR shows across Scotland throughout 2014. Jack also won the highest-placed veteran and Grand National-winning trainer Jenny Pitman, confirmation judge, commented that he was in outstanding condition, especially for his age. Ride judge Robin Sharp said he gave him a beautiful, well-mannered ride.
Diana said: “Being a former racehorse, Jack is a huge character and knows his own mind. We have competed in several shows over the last three years and sometimes he just didn’t like the judges who, as part of the process, ride the horses themselves.
“Mr Sharp just let him do what he wanted, though, and he reacted beautifully.”
Jacksonville ran in more than 30 national hunt and point-to-point races, winning several, and also carrying his former owner/trainer Vicky Simpson round the Foxhunter at Aintree run over the Grand National fences. Diana was given Jacksonville when Vicky was pregnant and has never looked back.
“My grandad bred racehorses, so I have always been around them. Before I got Jack I had a Connemara pony who started misbehaving and actually scared me a bit.
“Jack helped me get over that, he is such a big softy, so I owe him a lot too.”
Jack’s win at the Royal Highland Show qualifies him to compete in two classes at Aintree at the end of August: the prestigious Elite ROR Final and the veteran horse final worth £2,500 to the winner. He will again be ridden by Steven, 22, from Newtown St Boswells, where he runs his own breaking and schooling yard. He also events his own horse bought from Diana and her partner, ex Royal Burgh Standard Bearer (1990) John Wilson. Steven got the ride on Jack at the end of last year and has spent many hours schooling and competing him.
“He really has put a lot of work in to get Jack to the standard he is at,” added Diana, who looks after the cosmetic side of things ahead of the shows.
The ROR organisation promotes retraining of UK racehorses into other equestrian disciplines for a new purpose in life.