Racing: Upson's willing cold warrior: While others sweat it out under cover, Overhereoverthere wakes up with ice in his mane. Chris Corrigan reports

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The Independent Online
WITH top racehorses accommodated these days in stables more akin to the Dorchester than a draughty doorway, the comfort of the equine elite appears of more concern than that of many humans. It may not be long before smug thoroughbreds stretch out on straw sofabeds for Hello] magazine.

One horse, however, is leading a trend in the opposite direction. His name is Overhereoverthere, a winning steeplechaser - and he is as hard as nails.

Overhereoverthere's home is an icy field on a windy hill above two Northamptonshire villages, aptly named Cold Higham and Cold Ashby. He lives there day and night through the harshest weather, his mane and tail frequently frozen solid. He shuns all shelter.

'We've washed the frost from his mane and tail with warm water when it's time to work him,' John Upson, his owner and trainer, said. 'After a freezing night, you can see the clear circle of grass, surrounded by frost, where he's been lying down to sleep.'

Don't call the RSPCA. Upson loves his horses, indeed he has special affection for this one. 'You just can't put him in a box. He won't stay in one,' the trainer explains. 'He prefers the outdoors, whatever the weather. Nine out of 10 racehorses couldn't stay out in a field like that and be able to race. It would knock the stuffing out of them. But this one thrives.'

Upson built a shelter in the field. But even on the coldest night Overhereoverthere stays away. A barrier was erected to keep him inside, but with the help of his constant companion, a pony named Bracken, noses would be nuzzled to lift the barrier from its brackets.

'All we can do is put thick rugs on him and his friend. In fact he looks like a gangster in the one he's got on now - it reaches down below his knees,' Upson said.

Such is the unrelenting care that horses are provided with by stable staff. It is not that such people have a lesser regard for humans, but anyone whose working life means looking after horses finds it impossible not to love them.

Now a 10-year-old, Overhereoverthere won half a dozen point-to-points in Ireland before Upson brought him to Britain. Following his arrival, however, the chestnut's form deteriorated. After a gallop, blood would seep from his mouth and nostrils.

Routine investigation failed to find the cause, so Upson sent the horse to an Edinburgh veterinary college for expert examination. An allergy to paint, paper and straw, among other things, was discovered. His only hope, the vets advised, was an open field.

This hardy creature has not looked back and in November won two chases, at Uttoxeter and Towcester. Upson says that, given his favoured softish ground, more victories are certain before the end of the season.

The trainerspends a great deal of his time in Ireland. When buying a young horse there some years back, a friend remarked: 'You're always over here or over there.' Thus the horse was named. With hindsight, it could have been over and out.

(Photograph omitted)

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