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13 December 2018

It’s a wonderful life after racing as champions crowned by RoR

The fifth annual RoR awards certainly claimed a unanimous vote of confidence from a packed Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket on December 12. The ceremony celebrates the Elite Champions among those horses that have been retrained to achieve success in a new discipline after their racing days are over. The Awards are a crescendo of year-long events and opportunities for the varied avenues taken by former racehorses when they enter civvy street.

Heart-warming stories were relayed by passionate owners about the mutual new lease of life that comes through taking on an ex-racehorse. Whether it be the twists and turns of the polo field; the discipline of dressage or the thrills and spills of competing in cross-country and show jumping events, guests were shown many examples of how former racers have excelled when asked to take on a new challenge.

The RoR is by no means an elite charity and is extremely proud of the burgeoning programme it puts forward at grassroots level, and for what they describe as their happy hackers who enthusiastically take on horses who offer years of companionship and pleasure once out of training. RoR Chief Executive, Di Arbuthnot paid particular tribute to the Racing Foundation for their funding for this grassroots programme.

Among all the worthy awards, the RoR Special Recognition Award brought home the transformational benefits of connecting horses with people. The work of Horseback UK was highlighted this year, and how their equine-assisted therapy offers hope and meaning to those who have suffered tragically either through military service or in other walks of life.

There were four very strong contenders from an initial 17 nominations for the top prize of RoR Horse of the Year. Presenter Luke Harvey spoke emotionally about the merits of these special horses and the difficulty he and the panel faced in selecting the winner. But they certainly did back a winner judged on the applause of the audience, as Jess Westwood went on stage to collect the trophy for herself and her horse Monkerty Tunkerty. Surely most racecourse commentators were as pleased as Jess when the horse left racing and they became an inseparable team.

Jess certainly knows what it’s like to overcome hardship and adversity, having suffered a serious head injury which left her initially paralysed on her left side, with which she still struggles today. The adventures that horse and rider have had together was a clear motivator to Jess to keep going. It is clear that Monkerty Tunkerty means the world to her and as she said when picking up her award:

“I’m just gutted he couldn’t come with me today.”

Jess also received two VIP tickets for the opening day of next year’s Cheltenham Festival from The Jockey Club and an annual pass to Palace House, the National Heritage Centre, which they kindly extended to all winners of the 2018 awards.

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