The European Championships (think: the Euro equivalent of our PanAm Games) were star-studded this year. But beneath the Ankys and Isabels and Beerbaums and Whitakers are some footnotes that are sure to warm your heart.
The first came in dressage, when the Russian ex-circus, ex-police horse Balabar brought down the house with a perfect 10 for his piaffe. (I posted that story over the weekend.)
The second came in vaulting.
A trip to the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) farm in England can often be a one-way journey for a horse but for one ex-police horse, the trip to the ILPH was a ticket to a new life--and a European Medal.
Here's the story of ILPH Islay, from our friend Hannah Rowley at ILPH, who wrote:
ILPH Islay is a 17.3hh, 12-year-old black gelding on loan from the ILPH to a vaulting group in Scotland. He won a bronze medal for Great Britain at the FEI European Vaulting Championships, held in Kaposvar, Hungary in August. Islay and his vaulter, 17-year- old Victoria McLaren, competed in the Junior Female Individual CVI*.
ILPH Islay arrived at ILPH Belwade Farm in 2002 as a donation from the Strathclyde (Scotland) Police Mounted Branch. Islay didn't take to life on the beat; he found loud noises scary and wouldn't stand still at football matches. He was signed over to the ILPH and began an extensive year long rehabilitation program under the guidance of Eileen Gillen, ILPH Belwade Farm Centre Manager.
"When Islay arrived at ILPH Belwade Farm, he was a young horse that hadn't really grown into his massive body," said Eileen.
"Upon investigation, we discovered he had a hind limb lameness and was suffering from painful back spasms. His rehabilitation was extensive and we did lots of physiotherapy treatment with him. After a year he had progressed so well and had such an excellent temperament that we asked to try him for vaulting. The rest is history!"
Hannah added that ILPH Islay took the economy route to the championships; he traveled by himself in a van, all the way from Scotland, with five overnight stops along the way to Hungary.