Meet Real Horse of the Year finalist: Todd

  • Todd, a 16hh dark brown cob, helped his owner Kath Whittall re-build her life after she suffered a brain haemorrhage

    Three-and-a-half years ago Kath Whittall, a healthcare worker and mother of two, collapsed and stopped breathing while at work. She was rushed to the A&E department of Stepping Hill Hospital, Manchester.

    “I though my head was going to explode with the pain,” remembers Kath.

    A CT scan showed she had suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage – a sudden leakage of blood over the surface of the brain usually caused by a weakness of the blood vessels in that area.

    She was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, had amajor brain operation and spent three weeks in the neurology unit before being discharged.

    When she returned home, Kath was severely underweight and was suffering temporary paralysis of the left-hand side of her body. She was unable to eat orspeak properly and couldn’t stand without getting headaches severe enough to be rushed back to hospital.

    Kath, who had always been active and independent, was warned by the hospital that doing too much would cause an increase in blood pressure, which might lead to another haemorrhage.

    “My daughter Kirsty was frightened to leave me alone in case anything went wrong, and it drove me mad. We looked at all the things that I could no longer do and horse riding hadn’t been mentioned, so we booked our first riding lesson together and just ‘forgot’ to tell the doctors.”

    Riding gave Kath a glimmer of hope. The lessons became more frequent, until her husband Les suggested they bought a horse of their own.

    A friend suggested Todd, a reliable cob owned by a local farmer. Kath and Todd bonded immediately: “When I rode Todd for the first time he was really sensitive to my personal space, especially around my head. It was as if he knew something had happened.”

    Todd has since proved to be the perfect gentleman and has given Kath a new-found confidence: “Todd’s personality is unique,” she says. “He is considerate and careful.”

    Stress-free weekends are now spent as a family at the yard, mucking out, grooming and riding, which has also encouraged Kath to resume part-time work.

    According to Kath, Todd has completely changed her life: “I now have the confidence to work in a stressful job and know that I am helping others as Todd helps me. I tell him all mytroubles and they just seem to melt away.

    “Through owning Todd I have a wonderful set of friends and an active social life. I have found a new quality of life thanks to my marvellous horse.”

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