South West Wales

'Schwarzenegger horse' reunited with Pembrokeshire stable boy

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Media captionTom will spend the rest of his days with Mr Sheldrake

He was a "warrior of a racehorse" who jockeys refused to ride because he was dangerous.

But Pembrokeshire stable boy Paul Sheldrake forged a strong bond with Ellerslie "Tom" and made him a winner.

"He was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of horses," said Mr Sheldrake, who was heartbroken when Tom was moved to a new stable.

Nine years later the pair have had an emotional reunion, thanks to the local horse community.

Tom was advertised for sale for £650 on Facebook as a retired racehorse which had earned almost £100,000 in prize money, but Mr Sheldrake, from near Clarbeston Road, could not afford to buy him.

His friend Kay Sinclair-James got in touch with all their horse friends and together they came up with the money needed to buy Tom for Mr Sheldrake as a gift.

'Very difficult'

"Thank you just doesn't seem enough," said Mr Sheldrake, 45. "There are some beautiful people in this world."

Mr Sheldrake first met Tom as a four-year-old when working for racehorse trainer Peter Bowen in Letterston.

The 16.2-hands thoroughbred gelding had been passed on by another trainer who found him "very difficult."

"He came to us as a runaway," said Mr Sheldrake, "he had a bit of a temper and would argue if he found anything to argue about."

He compared riding Tom to putting your foot down in a powerful car.

Image caption Tom is pictured with Paul Sheldrake, his wife Cheryl and children

Tom's first two races were "interesting," Mr Sheldrake said.

"In both races he threw himself and his jockey to the floor after going over a jump, which is pretty unheard of.

"It was all in temper. He argued with the jockey and that's what he did."

After that, jockeys refused to ride Tom, branding him "dangerous".

But Mr Sheldrake soon found a way to work with him.

"I just made him have the idea that I wanted and then he was willing. He was a fighter and liked racing, but on his terms."

Mr Sheldrake's friend and jockey Lee Stephens had the first success in racing Tom.

"He pretty much let him do what he wanted and he raced," said Mr Sheldrake.

Tom went on to win many races, including four on the trot, and famous jockeys were soon queuing up to ride him.

But Tom was moved to a new stable in Carmarthenshire.

Mr Sheldrake described it as a "having a piece of his heart torn out" but it was something that happened in racing.

Image caption Tom now makes his home at New Mill Stables in New Moat, Pembrokeshire

Mrs Sinclair-James followed Peter Bowen's racehorses and tracked their progress.

She described Tom and Mr Sheldrake as "soul mates".

When she saw him advertised for sale, she knew Mr Sheldrake was in no position to buy him.

"I made some phone calls to friends who all know and admire Paul and very soon we got the money together," she said.

"The way he looked at me, he told me he remembered," said Mr Sheldrake.

He said donations have continued to come in for Tom to make sure he has a comfortable retirement.

He added: "He even gets post addressed to him!"

Tom currently has a broken pelvis, and is being nursed back to health by Mr Sheldrake.

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