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Marvin’s Story

Here we feature the story of Marvin (Spot of Luck) and his owner, Julia Wilkinson, of County Durham. The pair won HorseHage sponsorship for one year and featured in a major advertising campaign. You may also have spotted them on our tradestand back drop at the shows and events we attend.

Julia and Marvin galloping

“My horse Marvin (Spot of Luck) and I have experienced some huge highs over the past few years,” writes Julia Wilkinson of County Durham.

“In 2012, I won a year’s sponsorship from HorseHage and Marvin and I starred in an advertising and marketing campaign for the feed company. As a keen eventer, I had set myself the challenge of competing at the prestigious Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championships (now called the Mitsubishi Motors Cup), which takes place at Badminton each May, just before the famous horse trials.

“I was bursting with pride when Marvin and I qualified for Badminton, by winning our section at Burgham Horse Trials to qualify for the Regional Finals which were held at Skipton Horse Trials in August 2013. Luck was on our side again as we jumped a double clear, completing on our dressage score of 22.

“Things didn’t go our way at the finals, unfortunately, and we didn’t finish the cross country, but it was still an amazing experience and an incredible achievement just to get there.

“I had a fantastic few days at the event with my good friends around me, and have some great memories to look back on.

Julia and friends walking the course at Badminton

Julia and friends walking the course at Badminton

“One thing that only my close friends knew during the build up to Badminton was that my husband and I had agreed to split up (and latterly divorce). I stayed with a close friend and then moved to a rented property in the village where Marvin was on livery. That time in my life was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. ”

Moving On
“I had always said that once I had been to Badminton in the Mitsubishi Motors Championship, I would have a break from competing and take my life in a new direction. I was on my own for the first time in 12 years.

“After Badminton, I sold my horsebox as I knew it would not be used very much. I was sad to see it go but knew it was the right decision and I later bought a trailer and did a few BE100s and latterly BE90 competitions as I felt Marvin missed going to a party and when he was there, he felt fantastic. It was lovely to compete without any pressure of needing to qualify for a change!

“I moved permanently to the village I had been staying in, as there were two big positives. Firstly, Marvin was just a mile up the road and secondly, I would be close to my good friend, Karen.

“The village is a lovely place to live and everyone is very friendly. I soon became friends with my new neighbour, Johnny Smith.

“Johnny and I seemed to have a lot in common. He and his wife had also split up, and it was nice to have a friend to talk to, and he felt the same.

“We became close friends and later that year started a relationship – it was time to introduce Jonny to Marvin!

“Johnny loved coming to the farm where Marvin was on livery. He has a busy job as a station manager for the fire service and found that being at the stables was very relaxing for him. We all know there is nothing more uplifting than fresh air and horse muck!


Johnny progressing well

“In March 2015, I asked Johnny if he wanted to have a sit on Marvin. He was a bit nervous at the suggestion, but I helped him get into the saddle and then led him around the indoor school in walk.

“Marvin was a saint, never putting a foot wrong and, to my amazement, Johnny really enjoyed it. He loved it so much, he went out and bought a riding hat and riding boots without me knowing!”


A developing partnership
“I began to help Johnny learn to ride on my amazing horse, who I never thought for a moment would be capable of being so patient with a total beginner.

“In no time at all, Johnny and Marvin progressed to trotting and cantering in the school. They would also hack out around the village, first me with on foot and then with Johnny going it alone.

“The pair were soon trying out some low cross-poles, then little jumps and eventually popping round some of the cross-country fences we have at the yard.

“Johnny loved every minute of his time in the saddle and it was lovely to see Marvin having fun, too.

“Friends at the stables offered me their horses so I could ride out with Johnny. It felt weird to be on another horse and I did feel guilty that I was not on Marvin, but it meant that Johnny would be safe with Marvin and we could enjoy hacking together. I don’t think Marvin really minds!

A first fall
“As Johnny progressed, he went to some unaffiliated show-jumping and cross country competitions at our stables, and at local venues such as Leamside, Ivesley and Gloucester Lodge Farm – the places where Marvin and I started out at.

“One of my favourite days was the Hulne Park Ride, held on the Duke of Northumberland’s estate. A friend lent me their ex-event horse so Johnny and I could go together.

“I can’t tell you how proud I was to be riding around the Duke of Northumberland’s estate with my boyfriend riding my horse of a lifetime. It was also memorable because that’s where Johnny had his first fall from Marvin! If you’re going to fall off, why not fall in style at such a beautiful venue.

“There was an enforced break when Johnny had a hip replacement operation, which meant three months off riding. When he felt ready, he made a steady return to the saddle, with Marvin continuing to be an absolute star and looking after his novice rider.

“It’s wonderful to see Marvin move into older age in fantastic health and as a true schoolmaster in every capacity. He is now 17 years old, so classed as a ‘veteran’, and is so easy for Johnny to manage, both in and out of the stable. This is really good as Johnny has no previous experience of handling horses. He has had to learn how to groom, pick out feet, put on and take off rugs, as well as field management and how to deal with multiple horses around each other.

“Marvin has made all of these things really easy to learn. He has been so patient and has never done anything naughty.”

“We have recently moved livery yards to Ivesley Equestrian Centre, for a number of reasons – one is that it offers access to superb hacking. Also, it holds regular unaffiliated competitions, which Johnny and I can take part in.

Johnny, Marvin and Julia

“This year, we thought it would be great to share Marvin for the events. I competed him in some Novice-level dressage classes and achieved an amazing score of 81 per cent and enjoyed a spin round the 95cms one-day-event.

“Johnny has set his sights on competing in a one-day event and did a ‘show cross’ class in preparation, which combines show-jumping and cross-country. They were brilliant!

“Marvin was very excited to be out competing and was quite a handful in the show jumping – I think he wanted to jump the fences in any order, but it was great to watch. They also had a fantastic cross-country round. Having achieved a double clear, they came second.

“Johnny still has a lot of work to do in the dressage phase – especially as he hasn’t learnt any of the letters around the arena yet – so that’s currently his homework. That said, all you need to do is set Marvin’s satnav – he’s so experienced he’ll take him round! Then they can go off to enjoy what they really love – the fun jumping bits.

“Our last bit of news is that Johnny proposed to me last year, the day after my 40th birthday, so we also have a wedding to look forward to.

“I hope Marvin will be our guest of honour. We know only too well he loves being the main attraction – as long as he doesn’t stand on my dress!

So, we will continue to enjoy life with Marvin and here’s hoping we all have even more exciting times ahead.”


Julia uses Mollichaff Veteran to bulk out Marvin’s feed ration. It’s a high fibre forage mix that’s highly palatable and is ideal for horses and ponies that are unable to consume long stem forage.