‘Feral’ pony saved from drowning in floods becomes showing superstar

  • A “FERAL” pony rescued from almost certain drowning less than two years ago has become a treasured member of his rescuer’s family — and a showing superstar.

    It’s Just Gerald, an 11hh piebald part-bred traditional/Shetland, had been abandoned with several other colts in a field near Long Eaton, Notts known as the “Flood Plains”, in November 2019. All were trapped in rapidly rising water after a nearby river broke its banks, prompting showing enthusiast Ruth Darby, who lives nearby, and her neighbour Sue Williams to attempt a rescue.

    “I’d driven past the ponies’ field every day on my way to work, and was already concerned about them,” said Ruth. “That night, the water rose drastically and the ponies were shoulder-deep; I knew I had to do something.

    “The police closed the road so we could get the lorry through, and the fire brigade broke down the fence; we waded into the field to catch the ponies. Gerald came straight away but the others proved more tricky to catch.

    “We managed to get five in total, and Sue and I bought them between us to prevent them being returned there. We had them castrated, wormed and vaccinated and over a period of time, we rehomed them all except Gerald, who was older than the others, a bit of a loner and quite grumpy.

    “He has changed so much since then, though — he’s just adorable.”

    The £250 Ruth spent proved a wise investment as Gerald has taught Ruth’s nine-year-old goddaughter, Libby de Launay, to ride in the last year, as well as her four-year-old neighbour Ellen Hunt.

    At the 2021 Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) championships (11-14 August), Gerald was placed in all his classes, taking the first ridden of the year award under Libby and standing champion rescue on the lead rein with Ellen.

    “Gerald was completely wild and unhandled when we got him, but we all fell in love with his character,” said Lucie Gordon-Burgess, who produces ponies from Ruth’s yard. “We backed him last spring, but little did we know what a superstar he’d turn out to be.

    “He is a complete character and loves his life — the girls both adore him and share the rides on him equally. CHAPS was his first championship show, but he went into his first evening performance with no calmers, earplugs or warm-up, and looked after both his young novice jockeys.

    “You can literally do anything with him. He’s one in a million.”

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