It was love at first site when Moya Harris first laid eyes on Laddie, or Wait For This as he was known when he raced.
She hadn’t intended to acquire a new horse as she was sharing one at the time, but when Laddie’s syndicate of owners decided he was ready to begin a new career, she went to visit him. He was, after all, only down the road, living at the same farm where he spent every summer holiday, not far from Chris Down’s yard near Cullompton.
“And that was it. He came over and wouldn’t let me leave. He was nuzzling me and laying his face against mine. I couldn’t say no as it was love in an instant! He’s so affectionate and such a gentle, kind horse,” said Moya.
Laddie raced 18 times, winning twice, including at Ascot in 2002 when he won the Royal Ascot Cricket Club Novices’ Hunter Chase ridden by Leslie Jefford. He also won a novices’ hurdle at Taunton in May 2001, again with Lesley in the saddle. He had 18 starts under rules in total and another six in point-to-points before it was decided to retire him in 2005.
When Moya acquired him, he went right back to basics doing plenty of groundwork to build the relationship.
Since then he’s had stints in the showring counting collecting rosettes including at the Western Countries Veterinary Practice Show for the best ex-racehorse, but these days Moya says they are content to be happy hackers.
“He loves bobbing around the woods. He loves his home comforts and likes to come in as soon as the weather starts to turn. He waits by the gate to come in and he’s still quite institutionalised, if he has a rug on in the field he won’t move away from the gate, as he thinks he should be in, but if you take it off he’ll charge up the field for some grass. He’s beautiful to ride, as he’s very responsive. I school him a lot to help keep him supple,” she said.
The pair have built up a remarkable bond, made all the more stronger following a road accident five years ago. “A tractor and trailer came round the corner and the driver swerved to avoid us. The trailer swung into him. We had a long haul back to get him confident on the road and he will never be 100 per cent, but I do have friends I ride with who will surround him so that he isn’t frightened.
“It took a couple of months for him to recover physically after which I thought it would take him a long time to rebuild his trust in me, but it was actually better,” she said continuing, “He still has his moments and will get excited on grass but there’s no malice in him. His favourite thing it to be cuddled –he goes to sleep your arms! Even though he’s 21, he still has a lot of spirit and does like to gallop. And he likes to jump, but his idea of jumping is at 30 miles an hour, which isn’t great in a small arena, but perfect if you are cantering though the woods jumping tree trunks!”
Name: Wait For This
Owner: Moya Harris
Stable name: Laddie
Favourite pastime: Laying his head in your arms and snoozing
Former trainer: Chris Down