Monkerhostin's special bond to be celebrated at Cheltenham Festival parade
They have helped each other cope with the stress of their very different worlds, and tomorrow, Royal Marines Sergeant Major George Beilby’s bond with former racehorse Monkerhostin will be celebrated in a grand parade at Cheltenham Festival.
Monkerhostin, who won 12 of 61 races in a ten-year career, including at Cheltenham in 2004, will be returning to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.
Sergeant Major Beilby’s wife, Debbie, will be in the saddle for the opening day parade which celebrates not only previous winners, but the different way in which horses can enhance people’s lives.
Sergeant Major Beilby, who lives near Taunton and is based with the Royal Marines at Lympstone in Devon, struggled to re-adjust following his last tour in Afghanistan in 2009 with Plymouth-based 42 Commando.
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He and his wife have their own yard and train two point-to-pointers. He spotted Monkerstein, known as Monkey, when the horse was still with Minehead-based trainer Philip Hobbs, after a career that included the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Chase.
The adoption was orchestraded by Retraining of Racehorses, which runs five centres for care and retraining, and rehoming of racehorses, as well as helping other operations.
Sergeant Major Beilby, who has also served with Taunton’s 40Cdo, said: “I’ve learned that the return to normality after being on operations is very much a journey, which takes time. The easiest way to explain my experience is to say that it was a journey that Monkey and I made together.
“Having returned from a recent tour of duty in Afghanistan, I was still coming to terms with the effects of combat and as a family we’d experienced great tragedy.
“He acts as escort to our nine-year-old daughter, Kelsie, and her pony. Many racing fans remember him and he is still popular whenever he goes out in public. Members of the West Somerset Vale Hunt are always keen to pass him.
“It’s a really special relationship, but it is not unique; many injured and returning servicemen have benefited from being around horses and other animals. It’s just in this case, it seemed as though we helped one another.”
“Anyone who has ever placed a bet or enjoyed the thrill of a horse race owes a debt of gratitude to Monkey and all the horses he represents, reminding us all that a thoroughbred is for life, not just for racing.”