The creator of a video showing a young child losing his pony in a road accident hopes to get across to drivers the need to slow down and pass horses with care.
The fictional video was created by Holly Woollock, who is in her final year of film production at the University of Salford.
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Holly, who owns retired thoroughbred Lulu and six-year-old mare China, told H&H: “I’ve owned horses for 15 years and for my production assignment at university I wanted to create something that I’m passionate about.
“I got China unbacked two years ago, broke her in myself and trained her to go out on the roads. I used to take her out in-hand and cars would pass so quickly and it completely scared her. It took about six months for her to allow me on her back on a hack without having to lead her or go out with another horse.”
The video shows nine-year-old Heath Ashley writing a letter to Father Christmas to say “all I want for Christmas is my best friend back”, following an accident involving a car and Heath’s Welsh section A mare Rosie on the roads. Heath can be seen approaching Rosie’s stable with a carrot on Christmas morning – only to find it empty.
“I wanted to create more emotion and do something a bit different to portray the message by using a child in the video. I thought while I’m in my final year and have access to all of this good filming equipment I should try and make a difference to drivers who don’t understand horses, and tell the story from a different perspective,” said Holly.
Holly said she has received positive feedback on the video, which has been seen more than 680,000 times.
“The message is for drivers to take a few moments out of their day to slow down and pass horses with care. They might think ‘it’s just a horse’ and don’t realise the emotional connection and bond we have with them as owners and riders,” she said.
“I want to communicate to drivers that slowing down can make a huge difference. That’s someone’s son or daughter or mum or dad riding that horse. Drivers are endangering themselves too; an accident can have such a big impact.”
Heath’s mother Sara Ashley, who rides out on the roads with her family three times a week and also appears in the video, told H&H Heath was happy to be involved with Rosie.
“Heath appreciates things can happen with horses and he knows the importance of road safety and wearing high-vis,” said Sara.
“A lot of drivers don’t appreciate how easily a horse can spook and just think the rider should have them under control and the horse will do as it’s told – they don’t realise a horse has a mind of its own and if something scares them, they will spook.”
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The video was filmed in sections with the car involved in the “accident”, and the sound effects, added later.
“Heath was happy to help and he was very safe doing it. We reassured him there wouldn’t be a car on the road and nothing would happen to Rosie, the car was added in after,” said Sara.
“We thought a child on a pony might be a stronger message and make people think a bit more about children ride on the roads as well. It was quite a shock when we saw the final video with the car added and the sound, it’s been done so well – it’s really gets you.”
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