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A horse called Monkey
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Monkey or "Sun Wu Kong" is the most talented, stubborn and amazing horse. He was an unsuccessful racehorse who was given to Alex's family by the Hong Kong Jockey Club when it became apparent he just could not be bothered galloping. He returned to England with Alex, who started to ride him when he was only 11. Alex was only tiny, his feet were so short that they hardly reached Monkey's side and he was so light the horse could hardly feel him on the saddle. But they started show-jumping together and won everything they entered.

Monkey was not a trained or experienced eventer, but with the help of Alex's trainers, Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks, they started competing in professional competitions. No one could believe that this tiny boy on the retired racehorse could do so well.

But all was not so easy. Monkey, an extremely intelligent horse, would often refuse to meet his end of the bargain. Every year, Alex and Monkey celebrated great successes and experienced great disasters. The latter normally happened at the stately home of Longleat, where an annual spring competition next to the lions' enclosure always ended with Monkey leading the competition after dressage and show-jumping only to refuse to go cross country. This happened three years in a row.

From Monkey, Alex learnt determination and patience. He won many competitions and Monkey took him to the door of the Olympics. When Alex and Monkey took part in their first ever Olympic qualifier in 2007 at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Alex's stirrup broke a third of the way around the course. He completed the most challenging course of his life in pouring rain and with one stirrup. Although he missed qualification by 20 seconds, he proved he had the skill and determination to make it to the Olympics.

Monkey never completed another cross-country course: He just could not be bothered. Monkey is now retired and doing what he loves best - eating grass day and night.

(China Daily June 23, 2008)

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