A £30 mini mule made his hunting debut on Boxing Day with his five-year-old rider on board.
Napoleon, who stands about 10hh, tackled banks and leaped a gate, the latter without tiny Farrah Costello on board, on his first time out with the Premier Harriers in Ballylooby, Tipperary.
“We watched a film about hunting the other day, and were talking about it, and Farrah said she wanted to go,” mum Lara Costello told H&H. “It was going in at the deep end a bit, but Napoleon managed really well.”
Lara, who had spent time in the US and fallen for the draught mules she had seen there, spotted Napoleon advertised as a three-year-old, “but I think he was more like a yearling” for 30 Euros (£26.80) eight years ago.
“He was just down the road so I convinced my husband my horse needed a companion. I went to see him saying ‘If he’s not friendly, he’s not coming home’, and he just jumped into my arms, jumped into the trailer and the rest is history,” she said.
Lara said she “had no intention of having kids” at the time, but Farrah arrived, and aged two, decided she wanted to ride.
“I had nothing to back Napoleon with, so I just said to him: ‘Listen, mate, you’ve got to do me a favour now’ – and he’s never put a hoof wrong with her.”
Farrah and her trusty steed took part in lead rein showing, in which Napoleon “looked beautiful and behaved impeccably”.
“Every time we’ve taken him out, he’s surprised me,” Lara said. “I’ve never seen an animal love what he was doing so much.
“When we went hunting, I couldn’t believe how gutsy he was. There was a big bank, about three feet high, and he just launched off it. Then we came to a gate bigger than he is, so I took Farrah off and he went straight over it from a standstill.”
Lara said the plan now is for Napoleon and Farrah to take part in showjumping.
‘I knew the ground would be suitable for him, and it wouldn’t overface him – and he just took it
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
The 26-year-old gelding ‘absolutely loved’ his first affiliated class
“He’s unbelievable,” she said. “I love him so much, then every time we do anything with him, he steps up, and I love him all the more.
“When Farrah outgrows him, we’ve got a little trap so we’ll drive him; he’s got a home for life here. We’ll never part with him because we owe him so much.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.