‘He’s made me feel safe again’: how horse helped owner rebuild confidence after she was kicked in the face

  • A rider who was kicked in the face has paid an emotional tribute to her “amazing” former racehorse for helping her rebuild her confidence.

    Esmé Foster came across Daffern Seal in 2018 while she was working on a livery yard, where she was “lucky enough to ride him”.

    The Fruits Of Love gelding ran under Rules for Kris Weld in Ireland, before spending several seasons pointing in Britain for the Leyshons and latterly Wyn Morris.

    When the opportunity came to take him on herself, she grabbed the chance.

    “I wanted the challenge of retraining one and working with an amazing horse who has had such an interesting and different life,” she said.

    At the end of 2019 Esmé was involved in a serious accident, where she was kicked in the face by a horse (not Dixie).

    “I think they put about 20 metal plates and screws in my face. Even now you can feel it, it just feels horrible,” said the 18-year-old, who is the same age as Dixie.

    “After the surgery my face was so sore; it was so hard to eat. I chipped both my front teeth. I remember just eating pink custard from the hospital for ages, as that was the only thing I could eat.

    “I remember Mum sitting beside me, crying, because she was so upset with everything that had happened. I felt confused because when I arrived at the hospital, I don’t think I really understood how much damage had actually been done and I just thought ‘will I ever be able to ride again or do anything with horses?’.

    “That was my biggest concern. I was worried about Dixie more than I was worried about myself, because I felt like it wasn’t fair for him to just be left without me for however long it would be.

    “I remember being so scared not knowing what the scar would look like and how different my face would be. I felt so alone.”

    She added that she “couldn’t wait” to come out of hospital and did not know if she would feel up to going to the yard.

    “I remember looking at photos and showing the nurses photos of Dixie and that made me realise ‘I can’t give this up because he doesn’t deserve that’,” she said, adding that seeing Dixie after her operation made her feel “so much better”.

    “He’s been so patient and he always tries his best with everything. The first time I rode him after my accident, I remember just being able to walk, I was too scared to do anything more than that.

    “He just knew he had to take his time and be there for me.”

    Esmé had anxiety after her accident, particularly with being around horses on the ground, and has spent “hours in the school” with Dixie to rebuild that trust.

    “After my accident I did suffer with anxiety, but coming to the yard, being with Dixie – he’s always been there for me – he has just helped me so much. He has managed to make me feel safe again,” she said.

    Dixie was one of two runners-up in the Retraining of Racehorses personality of the year award, from more than 200 entries.

    Jockey Hollie Doyle selected the winner, Henri De Boistron, and all three finalists were present to collect their prizes at the ceremony at the Jockey Club rooms on Saturday (22 January).

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