Finding your dream horse can be a daunting challenge. This challenge is something Kate West, 45 years old, from Liverpool knows more than most.
At only 19, Kate was advised her sight was failing and when she was 22 she was told her kidneys were also failing. By the time she was 29, Kate was registered blind and that same year had a kidney transplant.
Kate found the courage to start riding again and found her ideal horse, Dougal through a yard she was having lessons at. Sadly after nine years together Kate lost Dougal and so she set out to find her next dream horse who came in the form of four-year-old Connemara, Regan.
How did you go about finding the horse?
“I had looked at adverts for private sellers but you can come across so many that are sometimes only 50% true! Eventually I came across a producer of Connemaras, Kevin Reilly who is based in Galway, Ireland. I contacted Kevin by telephone and told him exactly what I wanted but I said I would need to come to Ireland to meet him given my particular requirements.”
What is the most important factor for you when trying to find a horse?
“The primary thing has to be safety. I am totally blind in my left eye and partially sighted in my right and have my guide dog Daisy. I have no peripheral vision and no central vision so I see things in a patchy way in my right eye. If I ever look straight on at something it disappears and off-centre it reappears so riding can be a little nerve-wracking. I needed a horse that wasn’t spooky, that would stand for me to get on and was quiet. I wanted a horse that hadn’t hunted or jumped and so I decided to look for a youngster that could be moulded.”
Did you have any tricky moments?
“Regan was ridden for me first and then I was given the opportunity to get on, but I do require a mounting block due to ankle problems. We used a bucket but it went from under my feet and I went flying backwards, but Regan just stood there — that’s when I knew he was the horse for me. Even though he was so young he did everything I wanted and accepted me on top.”
Did you take assistance with you on your journey to Ireland?
“I took my mum with me. We couldn’t get a flight and instead had to get the ferry over to Ireland. I go with my own instincts with horses but my mum and I were thinking the same thing — that Regan was the one. I had tried another horse before going to Ireland but I just didn’t feel the connection with him.”
What has been the highlight?
“Regan has been true to Kevin’s word. Mum and I said after trying him that we wouldn’t find another horse so sensible. Safety came before conformation but it’s been a win-win situation as Regan has nice conformation and lovely paces. I just couldn’t afford to risk a horse that spooks a lot or is too big, or with lots of issues. Kevin was so trustworthy and I would recommend him to anyone. You sometimes hear horror stories about buying horses but I did my research and once I was told about Regan on the phone, I knew I wanted to go over to Ireland. In the stable Regan kept taking Kevin’s hat off and so he placed it on Regan’s head and he just stood there — I fell in love straight away.”
What are you future plans?
“I currently ride in Western tack but my instructor believes Regan could do very well at British Dressage so we are hoping to work towards that, though I will need to compete HC unless I change to English tack. I have previously done a charity ride raising money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind and Kidney Care UK riding 300 miles around Yorkshire, so I would love to do a week’s riding holiday, perhaps a coast to coast across Scotland.”