Jack Dawson – Heart Stopper

Jack Dawson and AP McCoy

Jack Dawson and AP McCoy

Jack Dawson retired sound from racing at the age of 10 in autumn 2007 after 71 races. During Jack’s career he won eleven races, nine on the flat and two over hurdles. John Berry of Beverley House Stables, his Newmarket Trainer, commented that Jack was a versatile and genuine character, winning races over a variety of distances and conditions. However, Jack did have a few setbacks during his eight years of racing.  These included sarcoids as 2 year old, a fractured pelvis in 2002 and a fractured cannon bone in 2005.

Jack is owned by Equilibrium’s Margaret Donnelly and Paul Wright.  Originally part of a racing syndicate, they took Jack home with them to Buckinghamshire at the end of his racing career.

After Jack retired from racing he was given three months of rest to get used to a new way of life on a small yard. Margaret Donnelly said “As he was just 10 years old we felt that he could be retrained as a riding horse.  He was just too young to retire completely and he still wanted to be in the centre of things. Without a job to do Jack gets up to all sorts of mischief including opening field gates to let all the horses out and locking me in the feed room for several hours”.

Sensitive & Sore

Racing puts a large amount of strain on a horse’s back, broken in at a young age to compete, race horses can become rigid and hollow in their way of going.

Jack was very sensitive and wasn’t keen to have anyone touch his back with a new saddle so after Jack’s rest he was brought slowly back into work.

Jack happily wore the Equilibrium Magnetic back pad underneath his stable blanket every night and over time both the Equilibrium Magnetic back pad and the Equilibrium Massage pad have helped him significantly.

Massage Pad cropped LR

The Equilibrium Massage Pad was used on Jack almost everyday. He always has a session before he is ridden, helping warm up his back considerably before anyone gets on. (You can tell if Jack hasn’t had his massage!)

Both of these products have helped Jack’s back noticeably, aiding him to become more supple in many movements, being physically able to engage his hindquarters and stay in a more consistent outline.

John Berry says

Jack’s old trainer, John Berry, commented that “Jack’s toughness is shown by the statistics of his career, which lasted nine seasons and comprised 71 races, 11 of which he won.  However, the essence of his toughness was his ability to bounce back from setbacks; he had a few injuries along the way, some of which would have been career-ending to a lesser horse, but each time he made a complete recovery and returned to action with renewed enthusiasm.  Most horses would lose the will to compete after setbacks such as these, but his love of competing never diminished and he remained as fiercely competitive in his final season as he had been at the outset.

All in all, he was just a very tough, professional and very genuine racehorse.  He wasn’t a champion and didn’t have the potential to be one, but over the years he probably over-performed because of his immense fighting spirit and determination to compete and to win.”

A start of a new career

Endurance rider, Lorna Kidson, met Jack a few years Jack Barburyago. Lorna says, “I was asked by Margaret if I thought their ex racehorse Jack Dawson might be suitable for endurance. With TLC and a lot of time and patience, Margaret and dressage rider Laura Plant had re-schooled him and even done a few dressage tests. Whilst Jack was such a willing boy that he completed his tests and completed them very well, Margaret didn’t really feel that he enjoyed it but thought he was not quite ready just to be a field ornament!

At his initial events,  it took quite a bit of patience and calmness to get Jack to settle as he thought he was going racing and was very suspicious of the vetting and the farrier checks. He is very sensitive and is wary of strangers.  His body is covered in old sarcoid scars and this may have made him more cautious about being touched. The use of carrots however to distract him worked a treat until he got used to strange people touching him. We also practiced at the yard with getting different people handling him.  He did very well in his first season – racking up several Grade 1s.
2010 was a successful year for him, as Jack upgraded to Advanced. He won both a performance formula class and a Rufus points class and he consistently got a grade 1 or 2. He is fast on course as he has such a huge stride; he happily trots along at well in excess of 20kph. Unfortunately he bruised his feet quite badly when he lost both front shoes whilst at Lindum Spirit Endurance Ride and we decided to do quite a bit of remedial work to sort his feet out.  This meant he was turned away for the rest of the year.Jack Dawson 44km Class Lindum Spirit


In 2011, and at the age of 14, Jack came back with renewed vigour.  He completed four events and was graded in all of them. This resulted in Jack winning the runner-up prize for the South Essex Insurance Brokers and Retraining of Racehorses’ Elite Performance Award for Endurance, a fantastic achievement.

Winning ROR Endurance Award

2012 was another year off, with Jack recovering from a leg injury but 2013 was to be a better year.  Contesting the ROR Elite Performance Award again, Jack won by a mile with 1605 points.  This resulted in him taking part in a ROR parade at Ascot Racecourse on King George Day – almost more than he could handle.  Needless to say he was more than excited to be back on a racecourse!

Happy Retirement

In 2014 Jack stared the season aimed for a cup race but Lorna felt that his heart just wasn’t in it.  The decision was made to retire him completely and he now spends his days happily alongside his sister, Jenny Dawson and the other Equilibrium horses.

Margaret says, “Jack is a sensitive and quirkymd horse but he is also very genuine and tries his heart out. Even when he is exhausted at the end of a race, if you ask, he will dig deep for you and find that inner core of toughness that makes Jack such a unique person.

To have been so long in racing (71 races and 8 years) it is a testimony to Jack’s big heart that he has completely adjusted to a new way of life and is being so successful at a new sport.

It is a privilege to have such a wonderful character in our lives. His resilience, his enthusiasm and his ability to overcome problems is a lesson to us humans.”