‘Horses are miracle workers’: how one gypsy cob saved a woman after she lost her baby

  • When Adele Barker, 34, from Spalding lost her baby after an ectopic pregnancy, she began to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Here she explains how getting back in the saddle helped her on the road to recovery

    “Something doesn’t feel right,” I said to my partner Nathan.

    We’d just discovered I was six weeks pregnant — after a year of trying. It had taken a year and a half to fall pregnant with my daughter Layla, now three, so we should have been celebrating — but I felt too ill.

    Within a few days, I was bent double with agony. I went to hospital — and within minutes of being scanned, I was rushed up to surgery.

    The pregnancy was ectopic, which means the baby was growing outside the womb. There was no way it could survive — and if I wasn’t operated on immediately, I’d die too.
The operation was a success, but once I was discharged, I felt incredibly flat.

    ‘I’d find myself crying for no reason’

    I couldn’t feel joy in anything. Even though I had three beautiful children — Layla, Jorja, 11, and Maria, 13  — I felt empty inside.

    Usually a happy-go-lucky person, I’d find myself crying for no reason, and snapping at friends and family.

    More than once, I felt a strong urge to drive away — and not come back.

    You’re grieving,” everyone told me, but deep down, I knew losing my baby was only part of the problem.

    In the depths of despair, I heard a radio programme about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.  Typically experienced by war veterans, the symptoms of this severe reaction to extreme shock or trauma sounded a lot like mine.
 Weeks passed. I didn’t feel any better. Finally, a friend dragged me to a doctor, who confirmed that I had PTSD.

    He suggested antidepressants, but I was reluctant to take prescription drugs. I could think of only one thing that could help me…

    ‘I need to buy a horse’

    Horsey since I was a small child, I’d taken a break from horse ownership when Layla came along.

    Now, though, I felt a desperate urge not just to get back into the saddle, but to get that comforting feeling you can only experience from putting your face into a horse’s neck and breathing hard!

    “I need to buy a horse,” I told my parents.
”We’ll get you one,” Dad said immediately.

    He was clearly so relieved to finally have a way of helping me. We may not be a ‘huggy’ family, but we always support one another.

    Lottie was the first horse we went to see. A pretty six-year old gypsy cob, she was a bit thin and unkempt, and had never been properly backed, but she had the kindest eyes. My partner had a little sit on her — then I did, and she felt so safe that tears welled up in my eyes.

    We took her home, and I set to work getting her fit and backing her properly. It was a wonderful distraction. I felt better than I’d done in months.

    That was October 2015. I’m now back to my old self, my kids have got their mum back, and I’ve coped without prescription drugs – thanks to Lottie.

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    Four in 10 women who go through an ectopic pregnancy experience PTSD symptoms. I want to reach out to them, to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

I can honestly say Lottie saved me. But you know how it is with horses — one is never enough…

    Since getting her, my herd has expanded to include 24-year old Finn, piebald cob Shirley, and my delinquent Falabella, Alfie. I’ll never be without horses again — they are the ultimate miracle workers.

    Adele has teamed up with bereavement charity Sands and her local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group to raise awareness of PTSD and is holding an open evening at the Lincolnshire Wolds branch of the RDA at 6pm on 2 May.

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