‘I want people to see past the scars’: mare impaled on fence comes back to light up the ring

  • A horse who was impaled on a fence – and had an eight-inch chunk of wood pulled out of her shoulder – is back to winning ways in the showing and jumping rings.

    Cass McKinnon Morrison and Rass Armada stood reserve champions at a showing show at Barleylands in Essex, last weekend, having recently won a showjumping class at the same venue.

    Cass told H&H the mare came into her life in 2014, as a nine-year-old.

    “She was bought by Teza Englefield when she was three or four, to bring on and sell, but when she was four, she decided to run through the fence – as you do when you’re a horse – and impaled herself on it,” she said. “We got the chunk of wood that came out of her shoulder and it was eight inches long. But somehow, she was never lame. And Teza, who’s a softy, wanted to give her a chance.”

    “Maddie” underwent surgery on her shoulder, which healed well except a tiny wound that was still weeping. Thinking there must still be a fragment of wood inside, the vet operated again, but again the site healed down to a tiny hole, which Maddie has to this day.

    “Where there’s a big dent in the shoulder blade from the lump of wood, her body thinks it’s a foreign body so is constantly flushing it,” Cass said. “It’s not infected or anything, it’s very strange.”

    Maddie was turned away to recover, then was loaned out for a couple of years, after which Teza said she would not leave home again. So Maddie spent some years turned out, looking after youngsters.

    “At the time, I was riding a Welsh cob who was a bit unsafe,” said Cass. “I had a hip and back injury and it was becoming more dangerous. I’d lost my confidence and was on the brink of giving up. But Teza said ‘Come and see me, I’ve got a horse I want you to ride’.”

    Cass warmed to Maddie instantly, as she reminded her of a horse she had ridden as a teenager, and she took her on loan.

    Gradually, with the help of Teza and Vanessa Irion, Cass regained her confidence.

    “Teza always said ‘She’s not the perfect horse for you but she will teach you’ and she has; she’s brought me on leaps and bonds,” said Cass. “We’ve done cross-country, dressage, which I’d never done, jumping and showing, which I had no idea about really, and still don’t!”

    The combination had had a long time out of competition, with Cass’s injury, Covid and the cellulitis Maddie suffered from. But when Teza announced she was to start running competitions at Barleylands, Cass wanted to support her.

    “We won the first class — I probably shouldn’t have been jumping as I was still sore, but she flew round as if she’d never been away,” Cass said.

    “Then they ran a showing show. I’ve been harping on for years about them running a ‘marks and scars’ class because I want people to look at Maddie for who she is, not just her damaged parts, as she’s such a lovely mare.

    “You see people staring at her shoulder and I feel sad for her that they can’t see past that, but everyone who takes the time to get to know her, loves her.”

    Maddie and Cass won the in-hand “lumps, bumps and scars” class, then the ridden version. Having also come seventh in the novice rider class with a friend who had only ridden four times before, Maddie then stood reserve champion with Cass.

    “For a horse who had never done showing, I couldn’t believe it,” Cass said. “I wasn’t going to do the championship as I was quite uncomfortable by then, and the Faulkner family I’d gone with had finished. But they said it was fine and threw me back on. I thought at least if I fall off, I’ve taken so many painkillers, it won’t matter, and if my breeches get dirty, it’s the end of the day anyway.”

    Cass said the horse who stood champion was “stunning”.

    “I thought ‘We shouldn’t really be here with all these proper horses and riders’; I had proper impostor syndrome, but the judge pointed at me. I looked round and he said ‘No, come forward’,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. The judge loved her, and said I rode really nicely; for someone who knows what he’s talking about to say that was amazing.”

    Cass praised the kindness and supportive nature of everyone at the show, and thanked the Faulkners, Teza, who gave Maddie to her, and Vanessa.

    “Kindness is so hard to come by and they have it in bucketloads,” she said.

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