Get to Know Vivi & Willow
Meet Vivi (Virtuose Du Biset), our European Sales and Operations Manager Manon’s event horse. When we recently spent a day together filming, she told us about her two animals – she also has a rescue Lurcher named Willow – and she wanted to share their story.
When I met Vivi, I met the angriest horse I had ever come across. The years spent in the field with next to no human interaction made him very wary of people and he was well determined not to trust me or anyone for that matter.
“Don’t ask me why, but I saw something in him that I really liked, and I was at this point in life where I needed a new challenge. Most people were against it, and I got a lot of negative reactions for buying him.
The history of French Trotter horses
In France, Trot Racing is a popular sport, and a lot of Trotters are bred in the hope of breeding the future stars of tomorrow. However, very few make it to the racecourse and a lot of youngsters are reformed, as they’re not fast enough.
This was the case of young Vivi who, unfortunately, didn’t have a career in racing and was sent back to his breeder. Because of the large number of Trotters born each year in France, a lot of them sadly end up used for meat, however Vivi escaped slaughter and was gifted to his breeder’s niece.
Due to his size – he stands at 17h – and his personality, which is probably bigger than him, she soon got scared of him and prioritised her job and family. Since then and for years and years, Vivi was left in a field with very little care.
From Trotter to Event horse
Vivi was never bred for the sport he’s doing now – Eventing. Trotter horses have a slightly different conformation from other horses and are built on the forehand, which makes it very hard for them to find the balance needed to canter/gallop - if you show a stride of canter in trot racing you get eliminated straight away.
Teaching him to canter was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done.
From France to Somerset
He and I moved to England when he turned 11-years-old.
From the moment I started to look after him, his world was turned upside down and saying that he was my worst nightmare is an understatement. It would take hours to catch him in the field, brushing him was almost impossible and there was no way I could tack him up on my own.
Once seated, the terror continued, and he would try and deck me every other day. I was lucky if I ended the session in some sort of quiet and controlled walk.
I would cry almost every day either because I got hurt or just from frustration, but I was so determined to get this horse to enjoy life again and find a discipline that would make him happy.
A new start and a second chance
I dismantled everything and started from scratch again pretending he was a 3-year-old just starting life and tried to build brick by brick: it hasn’t been easy for him to learn it all at the age of 11 (imagine learning to read and write at the age of 30 or 40) but the days, weeks, months and years went by and we’re now three years down the line.
Vivi is now a transformed horse; happy, healthy and smiling at every human passing by his field or stable – loving every minute! He’s also completing his first ever eventing season this year and although we’re far from perfect, there’s nothing he wouldn’t jump for me.
He now has three (almost) established paces and a bold and scopey jump, and who knows what the future holds for him.
Retraining Vivi is probably the biggest challenge I have set to myself: he is a very big and powerful horse with a tricky mind and a hypersensitive soul. He also likes to think he could do anything with his eyes shut and without the help of his rider.
Having spent that many years in a field led him to be his own little person which doesn’t make him an easy horse to train, but he definitely is letting me in a little more each time.
Many have said they wouldn’t even have tried to train him, so maybe I am crazy.
This horse was bred and trained to trot fast on a straight line, then was left in a field for years. I never thought I would manage to turn him into an eventer and make him perform in the 3 phases. It doesn’t go without tears and sweat, and I doubt myself a lot when we don’t do it very well.
So, we might not be in the ribbons just yet, and we might not be competing at a high level yet either. But very few people know our journey, the injuries and life dramas we both have been through and he’s still doing it like any other horse – he deserved a second chance and is proving so many people wrong already (and it’s not over!).
Even if he still drives me mad most of the time, seeing him enjoying his new job and life in general is just priceless.
Adopting Willow the Lurcher
By far the most consistent relationship of my adult life! I rescued Willow in Norfolk on the 1st January 2021, she was 18 months old and is a hairy and fluffy lurcher.
We used to live next to a rescue centre when I was a little girl and ever since I promised myself that when I'm a grown-up, I will rescue my own dog, so 2021 was a dream come true.
From what I've been told, Willow really didn't have the best start in life. She was found in a cage with her two brothers – she was most likely bred for hare coursing and never really left her cage; she probably wasn’t any good for coursing, I’ve never seen a lurcher with next to zero killing instinct.
The three puppies were deprived of food and had to fight with each other to get the little food they were given. Willow was apparently the weakest of the litter, so she would barely have anything to eat.
I won't share all the details of the state she was in when found and taken in by Tracey Beauchamp, who cares for many lurchers badly in need of rescuing, but she had been there for a couple of weeks when I adopted her and they had done an amazing job starting her recovery.
A perfect match and a new chapter
Willow was a really shy and nervous dog when she came to me, but the day of her adoption was one of our happiest days. She had no idea who I was, however she followed me and jumped in the car straight away without being asked to, like she knew I was her next chapter and things were going to be ok. I like to think we were meant to be.
Since then I have watched her grow, from the most insecure little creature to the cheekiest and happiest dog you’ll come across and it has been one of the most rewarding things I have done.
If I rescued Willow, I think she rescued me too. She became my safety blanket and has been by my side through the good times and also the bad ones, never leaving my side. Her loyalty is second to none.
Someone once said she is my faithful little shadow and I think that was a good way to put it. We might have a bit of separation anxiety for each other, but we’re ok with that. Willow brings me the consistency I always longed for and she teaches me that the sun will always rise another day.
After reading this you probably will have understood that these two mean the world to me, and seeing them happy and enjoying life again is everything. I am very grateful that life sent them my way somehow.
We are so grateful to Manon for sharing her story with us. It's very special seeing her with her animals and knowing how far they have all come, together. If you'd like to learn more about how you can support a sighthound rescue or foster/adopt one yourself, please do contact any of these wonderful charities: