Rider recovering in hospital gets surprise visit from her favourite horse

  • A keen Riding for the Disabled (RDA) member received a surprise hospital visit from her favourite horse as both of them were recovering from surgery on their respiratory tracts.

    Rebecca Slator, 18, who has complex disabilities, has been in Airedale Hospital in Yorkshire since having to undergo a lifesaving tracheostomy on Christmas Day.

    She has been a regular attendee of Haworth RDA group for more than 10 years, where she usually rides 25-year-old Chief, a 15.2hh Shire/thoroughbred.

    Chief also recently underwent investigative keyhole surgery for sinus problems, but was found to be free of any serious issues.

    “We approached Rebecca’s mother Nicola who thought it was a really nice idea to take the poorly horse to see the poorly rider, so I contacted the hospital’s PR department who also thought it was a wonderful idea,” explained Jane Lawrence, Haworth RDA fundraiser and Rebecca’s group instructor.

    “Rebecca can’t speak but she communicates in other ways and she definitely knows who Chief is — she recognises him and is confident around him.”

    Rebecca was able to feed Chief some carrots, as well as see some familiar faces from the RDA group.

    “They gave us a special area to park in where Rebecca could come through a door and straight out to him. The hospital was really accommodating and there was even a little bit of grass for Chief,” Jane said.

    “She was absolutely over the moon to see him and all smiles, waving and clapping. She was also really pleased to see other people as she hasn’t seen us for a long time either, and we’re all part of her familiarity and norm. She was playing hide and seek behind her wheelchair, so it was a great reunion.”

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    One of the RDA group’s members used their 18th birthday money to buy Chief for Haworth not long after they were founded 17 years ago.

    “He’s the most chilled horse we’ve got, he’s one in a million,” Jane said. “We always say he’d have been a great police horse, he’s that laid back. He’s done galas, been a competition horse and been taken to the RDA national championships and been at special Olympic competitions.”

    Chief has now retired from competition but is back on duty at the group’s lessons.

    “The problems with his nasal passages aren’t life-threatening and it’s not bothering him but he does get a bad runny nose,” Jane explained. “He had the surgery just to check it wasn’t anything sinister like a tumour.

    “Luckily they found it was nothing that would stop him enjoying life.”

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