Amateur rider Debbie Fitzpatrick and her home-produced riding horse Atlantic Flight have booked their place at the Royal International (RIHS).
Atlantic Flight — who is known as Indie at home — and Debbie are gearing up for their first appearance at Hickstead, after qualifying at Staffordshire County.
Indie, a 20-year-old home-bred by Concorde, was bred to show jump, but after discovering he wasn’t keen on the discipline, Debbie switched him to the dressage arena.
“We only started showing in 2018,” says Debbie. “He was late to mature and was tricky up until he was a seven-year-old, but he soon settled, and we decided to try showing on advice from a friend.”
Debbie and Indie’s rise to the top in the show ring has been swift; they qualified for the SEIB Search For A Star (SFAS) finals at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in 2018 and have also appeared as SFAS representatives at Your Horse Live in 2021.
“I was competing him as a veteran but a judge told me he’d do well as an open riding horse, so I decided to give it a go,” explains Debbie.
Throughout Indie’s showing career, Debbie has been undergoing treatment for bladder cancer. In 2018, she had an operation for a low grade tumour and reacted badly to the chemotherapy.
“I was really ill and couldn’t walk for a while, but Indie looked after me and took me to HOYS without much work,” she says. “I cried my eyes out the whole way around the ring. He’s such a lovely boy and he knows when I’m not well.”
Debbie has recently undergone another operation, so her RIHS preparation has been similarly curtailed.
“When I qualified I was thrilled, but I’ve been in and out of hospital so he hasn’t been ridden as much as I would have hoped. But I trust him and I know he’ll be as good as gold. I know my wonder horse will look after me once again.”
“I’m excited, yet a little nervous; I will be on board my 20-year-old home-bred against some of the best in the business who I idolise. It’s been a difficult time, but I have an unbreakable bond with Indie.
“I am aiming to have been back on him at least twice before we head to Hickstead and he has been keeping active by cantering around the field. I have great family and friends who support me, too.”
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