by Susie Lyon-Heap
Hello to a new home for Haynet, and I start this post with a sad goodbye, although in a way it should be a celebration.
Many of us will have experienced the awful decision to have a much loved horse put to sleep. On Friday I had to make that decision. Tootsie was an ex race horse who died at the age of 32 years.
Although I still cannot go to the stable or into her paddock – just too painful, I know that like many humans who have a service of celebration for a long and active life, I too must celebrate this particular horse’s life. This is an account of one memorable day.
In 1994 we purchased a small bay horse, just 15.2hh from Malvern Bloodstock sales. Her name was Thamesdown Tootsie. She had raced and won under rules, and would now go point-to-pointing with my daughter Tory, and be trained by former amateur champion, Jenny Pidgeon. On 11th March 1995, we headed to Eaton Hall on the Grosvenor estate, near Chester for the Flint and Denbigh Hunt point-to-point. The rain that year had been relentless, and jockeys returned from the course with faces splattered with mud like spotted dog puddings. Water dripped from marquees, the parade paddock was a morass of sloppy mud sucking and slapping as the horses were led round. There were the familiar gatherings of barbours, binoculars, alcoholic picnics, dogs and shooting sticks. Meanwhile Tootsie – ears cocked, dry and cosy in the box, knew why she was there and waited impatiently for her turn.
The Ladies Race was at the end of the card, and I watched as the horses lined up. Tootsie stood in the middle, her head high ready for action. She had already achieved two eye popping wins in her first two races that season. Was it possible she could be beaten this time? Then I noticed Fell Mist, who had challenged her hard at Weston Park. The flag was raised, a pause, down it came and the field surged forward as one. But quick as a heartbeat Tory switched to the inside and took up the lead. Screwing up my eyes I saw the stream of colour stretching on into the distance, but Fell Mist and Tootsie were edging ahead. Stride for stride and not a breath between them. They are 20 lengths ahead of the pack, and there are two fallers.
As I grip the rails in excitement, Tootsie comes whipping past through the cloying mud, refusing to notice it. She has increased her lead to 30 or even 40 lengths, with just Fell Mist in between, and he is now 15 lengths behind her. But there is still a mile to go, and Fell Mist is tracking her with ferocity. He shortens the lead to 5 lengths.Can Tootsie possibly keep up this incredible pace? Will Fell Mist catch her? Not a chance. Tootsie is laughing. I can barely watch but hear the commentator.
‘Tory Lyon is coming to four out and a BIG bold jump from the leader. There are three left to jump, and ANOTHER bold jump from Thamesdown Tootsie. Swinging into the home straight, this is now a one horse race. They jump the last perfectly. This is a very impressive win indeed.’
Tootsie had scorched her way around the track, and demolished her rivals. Drenched with sweat, blowing hard, steaming and earth caked, the horses returned, and Tootsie took her place in the winner’s enclosure once again. Tossing her head and stamping an impatient hoof, she kicked up at the mud stuck to her belly. The saddle was removed from her dripping back, and Tory went to weigh in.
‘weighed in, weighed in, horses away, horses away.’ Called the tannoy.
Tootsie then won at the Oakley meeting and battled gamely in a grinding finish to score at the Cheshire Forest Hunt. Five wins in a row. An undefeated nap-hand. She was voted one of the top 20 point-to-pointers that year and rated the top Ladies horse that season.
Tootsie raced 64 times during her life and bred five foals. Three won races. We had her for 23 years and the final 12 were with me, where she had her last foal – Mister Tiger, winner of three races. She weaved, was aloof, difficult to catch, impatient but never mean, and sometimes stroppy; but she was the most determined, spunkiest little horse we could ever have had, and I shall miss her like fury.1 Comments