In The Saddle with Anita Marsh: Time flies - my baby is now all grown up!

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Where has the time gone? I can’t believe my young foal, Haverlands Sully Fire (Sully) has turned eight years old recently.

It only seems two minutes since he was a baby.

As some of you might recall, I bought a beautiful Grade B British Appaloosa as my first, and last, foal.

His official name is Haverlands Sully Fire, known simply by his stable name of Sully. A stable name is essentially like a shortened nickname name for horses.

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Sully is now all grown up!Sully is now all grown up!
Sully is now all grown up!

Sully wasn’t planned as I wasn’t looking for another horse, let alone a foal.

However, one evening my friend Nichola shared a photo of this incredible Dalmatian-looking foal on her Facebook page. He blew my mind.

I saw he was for sale and passed my phone to my husband and said ‘Wow, look at this stunning foal. He looks like a big Dalmatian!’

Sully is a leopard spot Appaloosa and his colouring is so unique. I immediately fell in love.

Anita with Sully when he was a young foal.Anita with Sully when he was a young foal.
Anita with Sully when he was a young foal.

The husband then said the most ridiculous thing ever.

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He told me to go see him and if I liked him we could buy him as my birthday and Christmas present. I didn’t need telling twice.

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I rang my friend and she told me he was from an excellent breeder and we should go see him together.

For a woman who hadn’t been brought up around horses in my childhood, and had only taken on her first horse around the age of 30, a foal was a huge leap.

I’d had young horses since then from the age of five. Indeed April was then at the stage of being everything I needed, so this was a whole new level for me.

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I went along and met the breeder of Haverlands Appaloosas with the proviso I was only looking.

Upon meeting Paula, the lovely breeder, and of course the gorgeous little Sully, I was well and truly hooked.

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I didn’t buy him there and then. I wanted to go away and speak to my lovely British Horse Society trainer, Natalie Roberts, who had helped me bring April and I on together.

She fully understood my capability and would give me an honest assessment of whether I was at an appropriate level to take on a foal. I also wanted my family to meet him too if he was going to come home and be part of our lives.

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In the meantime, I obsessively researched the Appaloosa breed and thought he’d be a great match for me. They are wonderful all rounders with a zest for life and huge personalities.

Luckily, Paula and Natalie both thought I’d be great with him. So, aged three months old we put a deposit on him and he came to me after weaning, around six months old.

We’ve had so much fun together bonding, he already knew me a little bit as I’d been visiting him prior to his arrival so it was a smooth transition.

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It was a big moment for little Sully, and for me too. I wanted to help prepare him.

Over the years I’ve had a great support network around me.

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My good friend Ellen, another fab BHS instructor, helped me back him and I’ve had first lay across him and first sit.

Both of which made me cry my heart out with pure pride.

We took everything steady and it wasn’t a bother for him as I’d built up so much trust. I’m extremely and forever grateful to her for helping me with this. She has a wealth of experience and was so kind with him.

We’ve undertaken many in-hand shows right from him being a foal to get him used to the show ring.

Competing at county level and at the most amazing British Appaloosa Breed shows. I’ve trailer trained him with the help of BHS trained instructor Claire Cooper and she helped me prepare him for the ring and took us to the county shows. Beyond my wildest dreams.

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Throughout all of this, I’ve had Ellen by my side at the breed shows, often taking long journeys to meet us there despite moving away shortly after helping me back him.

Then I met the wonderful Harriette Rushton, who took him to board at hers to be ridden away and prepared for riding and eventually, later in life, jumping.

Harriette took us to our first showjumping shows, gaining rosettes and many more tears of joy. Achieving incredible things, despite the lack of confidence in myself. She’s always had my back. I’m so lucky.

I have taken him out to dressage at intro and prelim level, cross country training, ridden showing at his breed level, concours d’elegance at breed level, showjumping and hack him out regularly. He’s always in the ribbons and yes, I can’t help bursting with pride.

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I’ve had falls, lost my confidence and regained it many times over. I’ve had to man up and become a more in tune rider, but he will be the making of me. He already is. There are tricky times, but we get through them.

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I might not be Olympic champion level equestrian, nor a superb rider - but nobody can beat the love I have for him or the trust we have within each other. Love pours out of him and it’s immediately returned ten-fold. He’s one hell of funny horse too, and his comedy actions have kept me going since the loss of my dad.

I love the way he still thinks he’s the baby in the field, despite him being around 15:3HH now and the biggest horse there. My mare, April, is nineteen now and is at a point where she’s retired from competing and hacked lightly twice a week.

Alyssia’s pony is 21, again, she’s retired from competing and pony club but both of them keep him in line in the field with their wisdom. He must annoy them with his shenanigans, but they all seem to get on very well.

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So, now he’s turned eight years old he is technically no longer considered a baby or a young horse in the equine world. As far as I’m concerned though he’s always going to be my baby.

He’s absolutely changed my life and has achieved the stuff of dreams. At the age of two he won Coloured Champion at the British Appaloosa Breed show and Reserve Youngstock Champion. I think I just stood and cried.

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In fact, I know I just stood and cried. The judge must have wondered what was going on.

I highly recommend the breed. They really are amazing horses. The British Appaloosa Society are also incredible.

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The committee work so hard and the members have become life long friends and they’ve all supported me in the ring and have watched him grow up. Bear with me guys, I’m in a difficult place but we will be back with you soon.

Sully, you are so loved. You, April and Mara are all helping me through difficult times. Here’s to a long and wonderful life together. In the meantime, thank you for following us at In The Saddle - Anita Marsh and in sharing our joyous moments.

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