‘I never thought I’d see this’: pony out competing after grass sickness – and nearly losing an ear

  • The owner of a horse who survived grass sickness – as well as almost losing an ear – says she “never thought I’d see the day we were competing and enjoying life together”.

    Diesel, and his owners Jane Robinson and her daughter Ellemae, have been on “quite a journey”, over the past 16 years, since the Fell arrived as a young colt.

    “I’m so proud of him; we’ve still got him, and proud of her,” Jane told H&H.

    Jane said the Fell pony was away to be backed, years ago, when he degloved his ear in a freak accident.

    “The vets had never seen anything like it,” she said. “He tried to get through a hedge, hit his head on a tree and fell in a ditch and there was nothing on his ear. He had to have lots of operations, and skin grafts from his girth area, and it was a bit touch and go.”

    Diesel’s ridden career was then put on hold, and two years later, he was back at the vet’s.

    “He wasn’t right and when I rang the vet, he said ‘It sounds like grass sickness’,” Jane said. “I said ‘What’s that?’ and he said ‘He’ll be dead within 24 hours.”

    Diesel arrived at the clinic “sweating and shaking”, and his prognosis did not look bright.

    “He looked like a greyhound within 24 hours,” Jane said. “He didn’t eat or poo for four days. I went to Tesco to buy him some chopped-up carrots, and I think that’s all he ate for 50 days. The vet said if he got to 50 days, he had a chance.”

    Diesel spent a week at the clinic, then went home, where Jane monitored his every move.

    “I lived in his stable; it was just lots of TLC,” she said. “If he wouldn’t poo, I used to go and get a mare’s poo and put it next to him, to encourage him, but it was love and care and lots of carrots that got him through.”

    By the time Diesel and Ellemae were 14 and 13 respectively, in lockdown, Ellemae had lost her previous pony Merrylegs, and she asked her mother if she could back Diesel.

    “I wasn’t sure it was safe but she wanted to do it,” Jane said. “But she took him on and they rode round the farm; it was like he had done it all before. She started social media accounts on his journey, and it’s all just escalated. They’ve become best friends.”

    Ellemae is now an ambassador for and sponsored by equestrian brands, and she shares her and Diesel’s story, hoping to raise awareness of grass sickness.

    “A vet saying you have nothing left to do for him and you have less than 48 hours with your horse is absolutely tragic,” Ellemae told H&H. “I never thought I would ever see the day we’re going out competing and enjoying our life together. He’s amazing.”

    “I never thought she’d back him and ride him,” Jane added. “She’s now bought herself a trailer and is hoping to get out to competitions. She’s off to the National Equine Show as their ambassador, and she’s done this all herself. For him to go through what he has and be backed at 13 – I never thought I’d see that.”

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