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Three years ago I suffered a serious fall when viewing a horse, the stirrup leather broke and the horse went mad which resulted in me having a quite severe concussion and spending the night in A&E. I was thrown several feet into the air which then led to me landing head and neck first on the ground. I was unconscious for a while, it felt as though I was on a cloud and no one could reach me. I couldn't remember a thing, pins for my bank cards, my phone number, I could barely recognise my boyfriend. I'm Kate and this is my equestrian story.
When I got to the hospital they were concerned I had broken my back/neck or had a severe brain injury so I was rushed for a CT scan. The most terrifying part was not being able to feel my feet touch the ground as I struggled out of bed. I was extremely lucky to escape with no fractures just severe concussion. The recovery process took a long time but I was so determined to make a full recovery and get back on a horse.
After allowing myself plenty of time to heal physically and mentally, I began the search for my next horse. After a bad experience with a loan pony, I found Bonnie. She was advertised on a local equestrian site as a 14hh, 8-year-old, pretty cob mare. I got in contact with the seller and went along to view her. I knew as soon as I saw her that she was coming home with me. She needed some attention as she was overweight, her feet needed trimming, her mane was long and she had a kind, yet wild look in her eye. It took two hours in the pouring rain to load her and I was starting to wonder what I had got myself in to. She was a real project pony. When she finally loaded, she was trembling and it was so sad to see her in this state. As she stood there I told her that she would be with me forever and she didn’t need to worry anymore.
Bonnie had lived a very sheltered life previously, eight years of standing in a field 24/7, she hadn't seen the world. I bought her home, turned her out and she took to all the changes fairly well. I let Bonnie settle in for a week before doing anything with her, I started with building trust on the ground as I’d noticed she was sensitive with things like her left hind leg being handled, men being around her, worming her, or frankly anything that was out of the ordinary for her. It became quite clear that she needed specialist work after she dragged me across the field on the end of a lunge line.
Time to try another type of training:
Thanks to a recommendation from my yard manager, who to this day has been so helpful and encouraging and to whom I will be forever grateful, I met a lady who specialises in the Monty Roberts style of training. Within just three weeks Bonnie was learning how to trust people and I will never forget the day they said she was ready to be ridden. I was shocked, I couldn't quite believe it. Three weeks prior I was thinking I may have to retire her because the groundwork stressed her out so much let alone ride her. With gentle encouragement, time, patience and teaching her that not all humans are rough handed, the transformation was incredible. Fast forward to where we are now, Bonnie has been backed for two years and in that time we have taken part in countless fun rides, cross country training, lots of clinics, a local show where we came 2nd in the Novice showing class and lots of other outings. My aims for the next year are to compete her in some hunter trials, take her eventing and aim for British Dressage Quest.
So many people were asking me about Bonnie's journey and so I created an Instagram page for people to follow, that way I could post all of our updates in one place and remember how far we’ve come on this journey. It's been a huge boost for my confidence too because previously I wouldn’t have dared post about my riding on social media but together we’re growing and showing the world what we can do. There are so many lovely people who follow us who send through encouraging comments and messages, there are of course some people who criticise, but I try to see that as all part of the fun.
Bonnie and I wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the support of our wonderful yard manager and my instructor who has been fabulous in helping our partnership develop. To the friends who ride out with us and nannied Bonnie at the very beginning, my family who have picked us up when we fall, the vets and my farrier who are incredible and keep us going and to the lovely lady who provided Bonnie with the best foundations which have set her up very well for a successful ridden career.
"The equestrian community is phenomenal when you need help and support, you know you can count on those around you. After all, we all have the same interest and our hearts and souls lie with these beautiful animals. Watching Bonnie develop from a sensitive soul into an amazing pony has been an incredible experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity for me."
What can horses teach you?
She has taught me things about myself I didn't even know, given me the drive to go out and fight for something I want and improved my confidence to go out and achieve the things that matter to me. Producing a horse is a great opportunity but not one to be taken lightly, I have spent endless hours with Bonnie, followed advice from trainers and various people and kept up the consistency to get where we are today.
If you have the support, the time, the drive and the people around you with the knowledge who are willing to help you along the way, the bond you'll share with that horse is unbreakable. A huge thank you to Harry Hall for letting me have the chance to look back on my journey with Bonnie, becoming a One Club member was something I didn't have to think twice about.
Feel free to follow our journey on Instagram @reeducatingbonnie, thank you, Kate.