A rescued pony who helped his owner overcome cancer has won the supreme title in World Horse Welfare’s Rehomed Horse of the Year Awards.
World Horse Welfare Hercules was crowned Supreme Champion in the charity’s annual awards, thanks to his incredible will to survive and his role in helping his rehomer Alison Ironside overcome breast cancer.
Hercules arrived at World Horse Welfare’s Glenda Spooner Farm in 2011 with chronic grass sickness, an illness which gave him just a two per cent chance of survival. Thanks to the dedicated team at World Horse Welfare and Hercules’ fighting spirit he made a full recovery, well and truly earning his warrior name.
Ironside rehomed Hercules as a three-year-old, continuing his education and then backing him to ride.
She said: “In March 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after various surgeries, treatments, drugs, plus many months sat in a chair I decided that it was time I started riding again. Out of all my ponies I knew that Hercules was the one I could trust to look after me in my very weak state.
“In true caring fashion, even at his young age, Hercules seemed to understand the situation – patiently and carefully carrying me around the lanes never putting a foot wrong, never spooking at anything, never pulling on the reins and never pushing me when I was on the ground getting him ready,” Alison said.
“He is a pony that took a lot to save but he is a pony that has given everything he can back.”
Former Olympic gold-medallist and eventing legend Jane Holderness-Roddam awarded Hercules the top spot in the awards’ ‘Faithful Friend’ category.
“I have chosen Hercules because despite being a bit of a wild child himself, he appeared to recognise and respond to his owner’s needs when she was ill and curtailed his natural exuberance throughout her rehabilitation, probably because he understood how important it was to fight to survive. This inbuilt sensitivity shows true friendship.”
Hercules was then chosen to receive the Supreme Champion accolade by World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers who was inspired by Alison and Hercules’ story.
“I found Alison and Hercules’s story really moving. Their bond of trust epitomises the close relationship between horse and owner and whilst we had so many fantastic entries, I feel that Hercules has well and truly earned his ‘Supreme Champion’ award,” Owers said.
World Horse Welfare’s annual Rehomed Horse of the Year competition invited nominations from its 1700 World Horse Welfare horses and ponies currently out in homes around the country, celebrating their stories as part of its Rehome a Horse Month. Three categories were open for entries including Funniest Anecdote, Biggest Achievement and Faithful Friend.
The winner of the Funniest Anecdote was World Horse Welfare Wally, a horse awarded the title by Olympic dressage rider Richard Davison, thanks to this tendencies of stealing his rehomer’s walking stick, grinning for a peppermint and peeing on command.
Davison said: “I just loved the images of Wally peeing on command, and removing Dad’s walking stick. It must be chaotic ensuring Wally pees precisely on cue, while Dad is sending Maydays from halfway down the field because his walking stick has been removed.
“What must the neighbours think?”
Roger and Trish Pickett rehomed Wally from World Horse Welfare’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre as a companion more than 13 years ago and Wally has more than fulfilled his role as a loyal friend and five star entertainer for the Pickett’s whole family.
Trish said: “Wally is the comedian of our household, never failing to amuse and amaze us. He more than earns his keep as a companion by providing entertainment and boundless pleasure on a daily basis. Even with arthritis problems and at the age of 21, his sunny, impish disposition always shines through.”
The winner of the Biggest Achievement category was World Horse Welfare Su who has not only been a faithful family pony but has also given hundreds of disabled children the chance to experience the joys of riding thanks to her long service of 16 years with Riding for the Disabled and as a family pony with her Tweeddale rehomer, Katherine.
Olympic eventer and World Horse Welfare Patron Pippa Funnell MBE crowned Su the category winner.
Funnell said: “In the end, Su pipped it for me because she has clearly helped so many people through her long experience at the RDA, and that kind of life-changing achievement may not be recognised elsewhere. Her story really choked me up when I think of all the people she has helped.”
Katherine rehomed Su from World Horse Welfare’s Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre as a ridden pony for her daughter Maggie, more than 17 years ago when they saw her on the TV programme, Pet Rescue.
Katherine said: “Su and Maggie did all the Pony Club disciplines excelling at mounted games and they had enormous fun together. She has a lot of attitude and Maggie always stayed alert or she’d suddenly find herself on the ground.
“Sadly, as happens with children, Maggie grew too tall for Su, however Su then became a full-time RDA pony and continued the wonderful work she does providing fun, exercise and therapy to children with special needs in the Tweeddale area.
“Su’s now 25 years old but still loves hacking out in the local hills, she’s always at the front of the ride leading the way. Su’s been an invaluable member of the team with the Tweeddale RDA Group, the smaller riders adore her and she gives them a fun and exciting ride. Last year, when the Princess Royal attended the 30th party of the Tweeddale Group she presented Su with a very-well deserved long-service medal for her 16 years’ service to the RDA.”
World Horse Welfare marked a 10 year record last year with 300 horses rehomed – and the charity hopes to exceed this number in 2015.
World Horse Welfare Deputy Chief Executive and Head of UK, Tony Tyler, said the charity was delighted to see the public’s greater interest in rehoming, which was important to the sustainability of its work in helping horses.
“We have worked hard to promote the variety and quality of our horses and ponies as well as the genuine advantages of rehoming over buying or breeding,” Tyler said.
“Our rehoming scheme groups horses into several categories dependant on their age, experience and suitability for different activities and covers everything from non-ridden companions to those with potential to make competition horses.”
More on rehoming: rehoming.worldhorsewelfare.org