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a pony who introduced pleasure ‘each day’ for many years

  • A Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) pony who brought joy to thousands of children and helped ignite the passion for riding in some of horse sport’s top competitors has died aged 29.

    Tributes have been paid to Forester, who spent more than two decades at South Bucks RDA, brightening and changing the lives of those he touched every day.

    “In his life, he did more good than some humans that try to do good, because he did it every day of the week,” Di Redfern of South Bucks RDA told H&H.

    “Horses are incredible, and he was more incredible than most.”

    Medal-winning para dressage riders Natasha Baker, Ricky Balshaw and Ireland’s Michael Murphy were among those to ride Forester.

    Natasha, who rode him when he was a “cheeky” young pony, won her first trophy on the 13.2hh New Forest and credited him as the horse who gave her the belief she could “go on and achieve my dreams”.

    “I was one of the first para riders to ride him,” Natasha told H&H. “He was so cheeky, I got bucked off him so many times! But he gave me so much.”

    Natasha added that Forester was the first pony who gave her a taste of what dressage was about.

    “He had a brilliant Scottish dressage to music soundtrack, which he loved. He was such a special pony, the first one I learnt to ride in an outline – he really taught me everything and I did so many ‘firsts’ with him. I know he wasn’t my own pony, but he was a pony of a lifetime. I can’t believe how many riders he has given those opportunities to,” she said.

    “All RDA horses are special, he just had something extra special about him and the most incredible attitude towards work. He really looked after his riders – he had a bit of sass about him as well, but that’s what makes a good rider. He was an absolute star.”

    Di remembered how Forester came to join the RDA group.

    “He was advertised in the local paper – I called up and it turned out he was Lara Griffith’s pony. We bought him as a five- or six-year-old, and he has had the most amazing career,” she said.

    “He attended the RDA championships for more than 20 years and always won something.

    “He was a monkey, too! I remember in his early days helpers saying ‘he won’t let me tack him up’. I’d go in there and he would act as if butter wouldn’t melt.”

    British Dressage judge Rachel Hillier helped school Forester, and he worked up to around elementary level. He was still being ridden, although his duties were in keeping with his veteran status.

    “He would have helped thousands of children in those 20-odd years, he was very, very popular,” added Di.

    “There are helpers here that can’t ever remember not having Forester around. He is very much missed.

    “Thank you, Forester, for your lifetime of service. No pony has ever given more.”

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