Justine Robinson had long aimed at a place of her own where she could keep her horses, but when she managed to find a property late last year, she knew she’d need a companion for her old horse Patrick when she went out hacking or competing her showjumper Enzo. With a moving date from her livery yard set for 16th March this year, in February she arranged a visit to World Horse Welfare. The day before the appointment, she got talking to a fellow livery. This owner was soon to emigrate with all her horses, except one. When this horse, Cosmos (a Danish Warmblood by Grand Prix sire Saint Cloud) had arrived in the UK in the summer of 2016, having been bought in Denmark on the basis of his excellent breeding, he had a huge cut on his head, was clearly tucked up and not quite sound. He was left alone to settle for a while, and then sent to various places for investigation over the winter. But he appeared to remain unhappy and he reared and bucked when ridden. He was often led out to the field in a bridle as he was difficult to manage in just a headcollar. But when there was no conclusion as to the underlying issue, the owner was understandably reluctant to ship him home to Norway.
Rather than see the handsome 8yo given away or put down, Justine, offered to take him as a companion, and promptly cancelled her visit to World Horse Welfare. She thought she’d give him time in the field, and see how he got on. After all, he was probably too small for her to ride, being only 16hh to her 5’11″. But that wasn’t a problem if he was only to be a companion.
When he arrived at her home in March, he was, like her other horses, given Bowen therapy, and several problems were uncovered, including speculation on a gut issue. Justine resolved to try to ride him, given his disposition had become willing and calm – after all, he was only 8 and sorely wasted if he was sound. His diet was changed and his teeth were rasped. A new bridle was fitted and the saddle was questioned. Justine rode him bareback to understand if there was any pressure from saddle that he came with, or from any of the three new saddles she tried. But it didn’t answer any questions and he was still essentially unrideable.
She had used a Wow on a previous horse, and as a last-ditch effort in June she contacted Louise Howson of Shere Saddles in Surrey.
Louise fitted a demo saddle to Cosmos; Justine was amazed when the horse immediately was willing to walk around the arena without a rear or buck. She bought the Wow that Louise then made for him, and, careful to take it slowly, she progressed over the next 10-12 weeks from walking, through trot and eventually canter on both reins – to the landmark of his first competition. He was third.
Although a little spooky, he was then placed every time in three unaffiliated tests, so Justine took a deep breath and a few days ago (October 2017) entered him in his first affiliated Prelim.
Justine says “I’m euphoric! Cosmos had such a difficult start to his career in the UK, being shipped around and clearly very unhappy when ridden. Louise fitting him with a Wow saddle has been a certain key to his transformation. From a horse who I never thought I would ride, to a real top dressage prospect. Cosmos’ attitude has really helped in his transformation – he is quirky and affectionate and responds very well to kindness – he never ever wanted to get me off – he was uncomfortable and that was his way of telling me. Now, instead of being condemned as unrideable, he has a bright future. Looking out at this lovely young dressage horse with his equine pals Enzo and Patrick, in my own fields, is, on so many levels, a dream come true.”
To see the video of his transformation, visit Cosmos’ story