Every month we meet a One Club member, hear about their horses and their equestrian life. This month we meet Dawn Bacchus and her ex-racehorse Des as they go on a journey of discovery together that includes British Dressage debuts and fluffing lines. Over to you Dawn:

I was very kindly given Desert Sea (Dessie) when he retired from racing in 2011 aged eight. He had been a successful racehorse, running 32 times on the flat and winning over £115,000. When I went to look at him at the trainer’s yard not long after his last race, I fell in love with his gorgeous head, my viewing consisted of feeding him polo mints. Dessie was the first racehorse I had straight out of training, so I took things very slowly. Initially we did some quiet work in the school, working on steering and response to the aids. We then started hacking out, first with a friend on foot, then another horse and progressed to hacking on his own.


Our early outings were to an indoor school with my other horse for company. I then joined Wessex Gold riding club - their clinics were invaluable in helping him get used to being out and about. We started competing in 2012 and at his first dressage test, despite a lot of neighing at the horses outside the arena, he was placed. For many years my main interest was show jumping and then showing – I was lucky enough to qualify for HOYS twice with my other racehorse, Amezola and showing was my plan with Dessie. However, I had bit of a confidence crisis with my riding and with excellent timing, Emily who worked at the yard where I kept him stepped in and they were soon winning British Dressage classes with amazing scores. They also finished second in the ROR novice championship.

A yard closure forced a move, I started competing him again in showing and dressage.

We have been placed in the novice and elementary finals at the BD Associate Championships and have also had fun doing dressage to music, including our first win at medium level. We have only done a couple of unaffiliated medium tests as I am far from established at riding at that level (sitting trot is definitely a work in progress)! He is the first horse I have competed in BD with and I’ve been lucky to have help from some fabulous trainers with him and am always looking to learn more. We attended a number of clinics organised by the Showing Register including his first ever official showing outing and he was selected for their awards in 2016 with the possibility of going to HOYS if we won. Sadly I totally fluffed it up and we ended up at the wrong end of the line-up.

Over the last couple of years he has won a number of championships, winning the retrained racehorse class at the British Riding Club dressage finals and a dual win in dressage championships aimed at the older rider. Unfortunately, a bout of illness meant we missed some of summer 2019 but he qualified for the ROR showing championship at Hickstead which was great fun. And whilst not a win, he was placed on his first visit to Royal Windsor Horse Show in a huge class of mixed types – that was an extra special moment.

When not competing, we love hacking. He happily wanders through the countryside with me chattering on to him about who knows what. I think he is grateful for his soundproof ear bonnet at that point.

We were lucky to be invited to parade as a former racehorse at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth meeting at Ascot, Qatar day at Newbury and at a family day at Windsor racecourse, places I wouldn’t ever expected to have ridden.
At Aintree when we are up there for the ROR championships we are very kindly permitted to ride around the all-weather track that runs inside the racecourse - Dessie and I pretended to ride the finish of the Grand National up track which runs past the winning post, (albeit at trot).


We have, of course had challenges along the way and it has not all been plain sailing but he has a lovely nature and is up for as many cuddles as possible. It took some time for him to get used to standing in the lorry on arrival at a competition since as a racehorse he would have generally been unloaded straight away – he just wants to get on and see who is around. He is very easy to handle whether being clipped, shod or with the dentist which was a fabulous testament to how he had been looked after while in racing.

I’d like to finish this blog by thanking my partner and unsung hero Kevin. I’m so fortunate to have Kevin in my life, he keeps the lorry on the road and has spent many hours at horse shows with me taking photos and keeping me calm.


Dawn and Des xx