Last month we brought you the story of the ex-racehorse who has transformed the life of his blind teenage owner. Now, in another example of the brilliance of ex-racers, we have the tale of former Royal Ascot winner Namibian who is now competing successfully in para-dressage.
The Mark Johnstone-trained gelding won the Group 3 Queen’s Vase in 2011. He won two other races on the Flat before a brief spell hurdling with John Ferguson. When he retired in 2014, his career winnings exceeded £100,000.
Namibian went through the Godolphin Rehoming centre near Newmarket, where he was rehomed by para-equestrian Julie Frizzell.
Julie had already achieved success in para-dressage with her former ride Crazy Diamond, with whom she competed at international level and twice won at the Para Winter Dressage Championships.
With Crazy Diamond nearing retirement, she was looking for a new star – and that’s when she discovered Namibian.
“One of the Programme riders rode him first and then I got on,” Julie recalls. “He felt green, wobbly and young. And when I asked for canter he had a right royal buck and squeal. But, importantly, I never felt unsafe and it soon became clear he loves his work.”
Julie had served in the RAF for 20 years, before retiring in 2008 due to medical grounds. While taking part in an Army riding course, Julie’s wrist was crushed in a fall. Subsequent surgery couldn’t repair the damage, so her main forearm bone (the ulna) was removed altogether. She rides with a thermoplastic cast to keep her hand in place.
The pair began competing on the para-dressage circuit last March, and in July they were selected for the Concours Para-équestre de Dressage International 1* competition.
Namibian has finished in the top four in every test he has done.
It’s been a remarkable transition for the bay gelding, from winning at one of the most prestigious race meetings in the world to competing in para-dressage.
“To come from racing and turn to dressage is one thing, to turn to para-dressage at international level is another and it will take time,” says Julie.
“My initial aim with him is to contest the national titles that I won on Crazy Diamond and to be selected to represent Great Britain at 1* and 2* level. Developing him up to advanced dressage level is ambitious but I am in no doubt he has the brain and athleticism to do it.”
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