A rare-breed horse rescued in what was considered the biggest equine welfare operation in British history has cut an impressive figure in his debut dressage season.
Bungle was among more than 100 horses rescued from a horror farm in Amersham in January 2008.
He was among three rare Gelderlanders rescued from Spindles farm. The trio – Bungle, Zippy and George – came under the care of the charity, Redwings.
George has remained at Redwings due to his cataracts, while Zippy joined the charity’s Adoption Club at its Ada Cole farm in Essex.
Sixteen-hand 7-year-old Bungle was rehomed with one of Redwings’ veterinarians, Eve France, through its rehoming scheme as Gelderlanders are not straightforward. She was able to provide an expert home for Bungle as he matured, as well as manage his separation anxiety.
In a twist of fate, the pair’s relationship began before both of them came to Redwings.
Before France joined Redwings’ veterinary team, she worked for the RSPCA and was the practice vet when Bungle went from Spindle Farm to an RSPCA boarding yard before the charity was able to take him in.
France saw the potential in Bungle, but never imagined she would end up as his guardian.
She felt the bond they developed was destiny.
Bungle’s competition career started in April this year. At his first outing he got a 1st and 2nd competing in preliminary classes.
With France on board, he has had a busy summer competing in an unaffliliated dressage league with Harmony Dressage group at preliminary level and has not been unplaced in any outing, collecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th placings, generally scoring 58-69 percent.
“Bungle is such a gentle horse and has been quick to learn and taken everything in his stride,” France explains.
“He came third in the league without even competing at every event and he was one point off second place and three points behind the winner’s position. I was so, so proud of him!”
Bungle also went to Equifest, where he was placed 5th in the RSPCA ridden rescue horse class.
His most recent dressage outing was for the first round of the Trailblazers championship at World Horse Welfare’s Overa Farm, where he had two 4th placings at preliminary level and qualified for the second-round competition.
“There is a championship at Stoneleigh next year which I am trying to qualify for,” continues France. “Maybe we’ll attempt the dressage to music, too, if time allows!
“If he goes well enough through the winter I will step him up to novice classes and maybe qualify him for that, too.”
The Gelderlander is a heavy warmblood breed developed in the Netherlands which, together with the Groninger breed, provided the foundation for the Dutch Warmblood.
Originally bred to be a stylish carriage horse, yet versatile enough to work on the farm, the Gelderlander declined in popularity in the middle of the 20th century.
The breed is popular today for not only carriage driving, but also for showjumping as it has a high trot – a characteristic that also works well for dressage.
Well-known Gelderlanders have included Gondelier, the 1972 Dutch Jumping Champion, who cleared 2.2 metres; Zooloog, who competed in the 1991 Pan American Games, and Vosmaer, who was still competing in grand prix dressage at age 20.
“There is also the recently retired grand prix dressage horse Mr President,” France says.
“I dream of Bungle following his example, which is encouraged by people approaching me to say how much they look alike!”
Bungle – plus George and Zippy – are not the first Gelderlanders to come under Redwings’ care. Former showjumper Herman was once a resident, and five-year-old Benedict, from a group rescued in Ireland in 2011, lives at its site north of Norwich.
Redwings played a key part in the Amersham rescue, helping with transport, taking in 21 horses and donkeys on the day and offering homes to 64 horses in total, including several foals, as well as giving crucial evidence in the court case.