Jayne Ackland-Snow credits her gelding Bincastle Lad (aka “Donny The Connie”) for helping her recover from a terrible illness that left her hospitalised.

The 62-year-old was struck down with a “very nasty and unusual form of bacterial meningitis” five years ago.

“It was on New Year’s Eve that I started to feel unwell,” remembers Jayne, who didn’t start riding until the age of 40. “I got a really bad fever that I thought was flu — I stayed in bed for a few days but it just got worse.

“I was taken to hospital and put on drips and antibiotics, I also had a spinal tap and various other things before they found out what it was.”

A ten-day spell in hospital followed before her recovery began at home.

“I gradually started getting better and got my interest in horses back. However, I had a very big horse at the time and I wasn’t finding it easy with him — tacking up and riding him was a struggle. So someone suggested I went and looked at Donny, who was for sale.

“My first thoughts were that he was too white, too small and too old! But it turned out he was perfect for me and, over the past five years, he has hugely helped with my recovery,” adds Jayne.

“It was a really tough time, but both Donny and my husband have been instrumental in helping me get back to full health.”

Jayne, who describes Donny as “the most super pony”, is hoping to improve on her performance at the H&H Festival of Eventing last year.

“He doesn’t really like cross-country and I’m hoping to improve on our elimination in 2017,” she says.

“I’m not the bravest rider and both Donny and I think ‘if you don’t want to do it nor do I! However, we have been doing a lot of training — riding is a real passion of mine and I’m lucky to be here.”

Don’t miss the full report from the H&H Festival of Eventing in Horse & Hound magazine — on sale Thursday, 7 June and follow online at www.horseandhound.co.uk.