Friday, 16 September 2016


Many moons ago I did a portrait for Sue, of her fabulous horse of a lifetime, Count Rostov. She had a significant birthday coming up, so contacted me to do another portrait, this time of her second horse of a lifetime, the wonderful Tom.

I feel privileged to have been asked to portray him, although it was looking like a bit of a nightmare at one point as we couldn't track down the 'tog who'd taken the photo I wanted to work from! I love how he has that casual leg cross in front, that to me always signifies a natural, confident jumper. Pleas on Facebook, and lots of helpful people in the Scottish eventing community eventually tracked down Thane Rudi Brooker, who was extremely generous in allowing me to work from his photograph. So a huge thanks to him!

Tom has a brilliant life story with Sue, and it's worth a share.

Sue was finding her hips were giving her too much pain to ride, and as she had to have competition in her life she took up driving. The first driving horse was apparently talented but a tad scary, so she decided to a find nicer pony to play with! 

After finding an ad for a coloured cob from gypsy stock on A1 north of Luton, she flew down to see the pony. He turned out not to be suitable, but on nosing around, she found a just gelded, 4yo Tom in a back stable. His sire was a trotter stallion with mane to his knees! She really liked Tom, but he wasn't for sale. Clearly there was some serious persuading going on, as she managed to try him for 10 mins (with a plane to catch) and convinced the owner to sell him to her. 
This was however, early in 2001 and there was a race against time to get him up the road before the country shut down due to foot and mouth. He was the last load Gillies delivered before the transport ban and had to be dropped at the road end due to all the precautions. 

Tom proved to be the perfect gent to drive, they started competing and got to doing FEI singles and was long listed for the GB team for the World Championships. 

He was so special, that when Sue emigrated to Australia, she took Tom with her and had the thrill of her first Oz driving event only being at the Sydney Olympics XC site! Then, when she came home again to Scotland (oh, how I understand that desire!), he came back with her.

After her first hip replacement, she found driving a 'faff' so thought she'd try riding again and was delighted to have no pain. So having no event horse, thought to give Tom a try under saddle. He took to it like a duck to water, went BE, and other than once was never lower than 4th, always going clear XC, and only twice clipping rails show jumping over 2/3 yrs. He qualified for the Grassroots class at Badminton but Sue was over qualified having competed at 4*. After a second hip operation, Tom went on loan to a chum to hack/pc. 

The years of driving had taken their toll a bit, so they concentrated on SJ instead. In 3 years he'd won most of his classes (twice has won 9 on the bounce), been in the top 3 in 85% of his starts, is now out of Foxhunter classes on winnings, and is nearly Grade B! He's now just jumping 90/100 opens as age is catching up with him, but what a fabulous little horse!  

In Sue's words - "He outdoes his physical ability with his huge heart and generous spirit. He is awesome. Like having your childhood perfect pony back (he is 14.2), safe as houses but a winning machine, perfect for an ageing ex-event rider to live the dream."

I think he's just as lucky as Sue, to have found such a brilliant home.

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