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Celebrating Mares - Pentrefelin Layla

Rebecca Neale tells us about her Welsh sec D mare, Pentrefelin Layla.

“The First of the Unfortunate Events…

I have owned Layla since an unbroken 3 year old and she has been home-produced by myself. When we were ready to start competing we did a little bit of showing before we tried our hand and hoof at British Dressage. At her first affiliated competition she qualified for the areas. Unfortunately a few weeks afterwards Layla became intermittently lame and a few vet visits along with nerve blocks and tests it was decided the diagnosis was that she had done her tendon. This was a devastating blow after a successful start to her competition life, the vet advised she may never be sound again let alone enough to compete. As you can imagine people had opinions but I decided to give her a chance to recover. I had discussed breeding from her as a long term plan as she has such a lovely nature and is from nice bloodlines. My vet said this would be okay to do and would give her at least 18 months out to give the leg a chance to heal, I chose to use a German Warmblood with the intent to breed a future competition horse for myself for the future. Layla went to West Kington Stud for a holiday, she was turned out with a herd of mares and settled quickly. Getting her in foal wasn’t easy, at the scan after the first insemination she was empty, we tried again and another scan showed the same. Feeling despondent and running out of time (and money) the vet tried a different tact and at long last when I attended the scan she was in foal. I’m not ashamed to say I had a few tears of happiness. Her pregnancy went well, she is a good doer so I had to monitor her weight but she was happy and looked okay walking around the field. After two weeks of sleeping in a caravan at the yard on the 19th July 2012 Layla foaled at home with me as midwife. She had a cracking leggy coloured colt (Squirt) and I am so glad that i was there to see it and share this special moment with my girl.Pentrefelin Layla

At weaning Layla was happy to come away and settled into a new stable and field, on the 25th April I got back on and began 6 weeks of walking road work slowly building up the length of time. Layla has always loved work so I had to introduce half a dozen strides of trot after 6 weeks to keep her sane! My vet came to scan the leg after we’d built up the trot a bit and amazingly it showed the leg had healed and was holding up well. We continued to slowly but surely build up the work to progress to canter, schooling and finally a jump. In 2013 we returned to the show ring, in this season we won classes and stood champion in both flat and working hunter mountain&moorland classes. In September we attended the SWPA Championship Show after qualifying, again we won and were placed in multiple classes. On the last day they hold the finals, we had a few to do and were placed in all but the crowning moment has to be being pulled forward as the Open Cob Open Working Hunter Champions. I was so emotional as we had been through so much and didn’t expect it.

My Turn on the Sideline

On the 28th January 2014 I had ligament reconstruction on my right ankle. I was in a cast till March and even then had to be very careful, I was told no riding or sports for 6 months from the operation. As soon as I managed to convince my mum to take me to the yard I was there to see both Layla and Squirt. Layla had a holiday and once I was allowed back on we started the walking all over again, just in case, and to allow me time to get back to riding. My ankle was very stiff and sometimes it affected my riding but Layla has just adapted and works well even if my legs aren’t even. We made it back to fitness in time for midway through the hunt season, the Duke of Beaufort meet near our yard once a month so we were able to hack there and enjoy a morning out. Layla is a brilliant hunting pony who loves nothing more than being upfront with the big boys, she truly believes she is far bigger than her little 14.1 height. It was during a morning out and a conversation with friends that I decided in 2015 we would give eventing a go as she was proving to be brave and bold over anything. We had a good day and she seemed fine when we got home as normal I bandaged her overnight and the next morning she trotted up a bit stiff but nothing awful so I turned her out. When I went to get her in in the evening disaster had struck again. Her front leg was huge, I was devastated and so worried. The vet came out and after scans she could see that Layla had sustained a check ligament strain, there was a really deep gateway and I’m sure that’s where it happened.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Amazingly Layla did the impossible again and after just a month on box rest she came back sound. Guess what? We started walking again! And slowly built it up until on the 7th June 2015 we made our BE80 debut. Last season we did 5 x BE80’s being placed in the top ten at three; Chepstow (July) 9th, West Wilts (September) – 5th and Bricky (September) 2nd. In November 2015 I needed a second ankle op to remove a chip of bone left behind and tidy the joint up. We have continued to campaign British Eventing and have stepped up to BE90. In March we went to Swalcliffe and came 7th, to be placed in our first event was an amazing feeling. Unfortunately we had a nasty fall at Mount Ballan going XC but we have been back out eventing and Layla has definitely lost no confidence. I am looking forward to our last few events of the season.”

What advice would you give to somebody who is thinking of owning a mare/bought a new mare?

“My advice to anyone with a new mare to form a partnership is to remember they are like elephants – They never forget! But if you can ask nicely and get them on side they’ll jump the moon for you. If you have a good mare with a strong bond you will be unstoppable as a team! Also do remember they may get tight/sore when due in season so take it easy that week and go hacking with light schooling if they feel not 100%.”