Anyone with a love of horses will know that they are incredible animals with an amazing ability to tune into a person’s emotions.
Some horses are extra special and overcome difficulties of their own to go on and change people’s lives. One such pony is Brandy, a 27-year-old chestnut mare who is much loved by everyone at Divoky Riding School, based in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.
Brandy spent her younger days as a pet to a lady that had little equine experience and spent six months off her legs due to a severe bout of laminitis, so bad that the vet recommended she should be put to sleep.
Not wanting to give up on Brandy, her owner bravely battled to save her life before allowing her to go out on loan to what she believed to be a more suitable home. Without permission, Brandy was sold on to another home, from where she was retrieved back into the care of her owner, with the help of local authorities and the police.
Realising she didn’t have the right facilities to properly care for Brandy, her owner asked Pat Bishop, proprietor of Divoky Riding School, if she was willing to step in and take her on loan.
Pat agreed and when Brandy arrived at the yard she was in poor condition, skeletal and with sores on her body.
After Pat and the team at Divoky nursed Brandy back to health, she began her career in the riding school. Her special personality was first noticed when a terminally ill young girl came to the yard through the charity, ‘Make a Wish’.
I was completely amazed at how wonderful Brandy was with the rider, which inspired me to want to work with more disabled riders.”
Divoky Riding Stables is one of 52 Accessibility Mark accredited centres in the UK which means they have been approved by Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) following training and assessment.
Brandy is now a firm favourite with clients, and in particular the disabled riders that participate in the Accessibility Mark sessions.
She is especially intuitive with riders that suffer from epilepsy, seeming to sense when a fit is going to happen and standing still to wait for the tremors to pass.
Proving you are never too old to try something new, Brandy went to her first competition at 24-years-old to help an ex-champion lady jockey who has no feeling in her right side following a racing accident, to achieve her dreams of competing again
The pair competed in an able-bodied dressage competition where they came second in a walk and trot test. It would have been first if Brandy hadn’t stopped to relieve herself halfway through!
Brandy is a wonderful pony and is my go-to pony for riders that are either nervous or require that extra something. She has taught hundreds of clients to ride but more importantly she has helped many people through her kindness and patience. She seems to instinctively understand what to do for each individual.
Although she still looks like a 10-year-old, she has wonky teeth and now requires a little extra maintenance to ensure she keeps her youthful looks and I am pleased to say that she has never had a bout of laminitis in the 15 years that she has now been with us.
From such a tough start, Brandy is the first to call out to me every morning when I arrive at the yard and her owner has now gifted her to me, which was a huge honour that made me feel emotional. Brandy really is a pony in a million.”
To find your nearest RDA Group or Accessibility Mark centre visit www.rda.org.uk