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Spindles Farm survivor Duke wins dressage debut
FIVE years ago Duke was suffering from life-threatening infections after surviving one of the UK's worst animal cruelty cases - now he's just won his first ever dressage competition.
The thoroughbred gelding was one of 14 animals to be taken in by the Speen-based Horse Trust after being seized from Spindles Farm in Hyde Heath.
It was touch and go whether he would survive, and even after his initial recovery he needed lifesaving surgery on an unrelated condition.
Fast forward five years and Duke now looks a different animal and this week competed in his first ever dressage and showjumping competitions.
He managed a clear round in the showjumping - despite never having seen a coloured pole or jumped round a course before in his life - and won his debut dressage event with a score of 59 per cent.
Duke took part in the events at the Widmer Equestrian Centre in Lacey Green with the Horse Trust's resident trainer Jane Calvert on board.
Jeanette Allen, Chief Executive of The Horse Trust, said: "We are so proud of all that Duke has achieved despite tough start in life. We hope that this will be the start of a promising career for Duke and that he will go on to represent the Horse Trust at many more shows in future.
"Duke’s health problems mean that he can’t be rehomed, but we guarantee that he will have a happy and secure home at The Horse Trust for the rest of his life.’
Duke was one of more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys to be taken from Spindles Farm in one of the RSPCA's biggest-ever rescue operations in 2008.
A further 32 animals were found dead at the farm and five members of the same family were later convicted under the Animal Welfare Act.
After intensive veterinary treatment and care Duke slowly began to recover, but he later developed Sarcoids on his left eye and had to travel more than 200 miles to the University of Liverpool’s Equine Hospital to undergo specialist treatment to remove the tumours.
He then needed to undergo further life-saving surgery at the Royal Veterinary College for recurring bouts of colic, before making a full recovery that allowed him to make his competitive debut last week.
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