‘I don’t think she knows what that meant’: rider with terminal cancer savours one last horsey moment

  • An equestrian who has been given weeks to live said she could not describe how much it meant to have one last horsey experience.

    Suzie Valkyrie was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer last autumn aged 49 and told she might have three years to live. She was then told it could be 12 weeks.

    Her friend Michelle Ross arranged for her to have a visit from eight-year-old Darcy and her owner Gemma Almond.

    Michelle told H&H she and Suzie have been friends for about 30 years. They both lived in Kettering, and their children went to the same school. They rode and kept horses together, and fundraised in support of the neglected equines at Spindles Farm.

    Suzie moved away but they kept in touch, and Suzie told Michelle of her diagnosis last November.

    “She was told about 19 years ago she couldn’t ride again as she had arthritis, a spinal condition and fibromyalgia,” Michelle said. “She hadn’t really been near a horse for 13 or 14 years; hadn’t had that horse smell that we all love.”

    Michelle runs a strangles and equine flu awareness page on  Facebook, and she posted asking for anyone in Suzie’s area who had a suitable horse.

    “The lovely Gemma Almond came forward straight away and said ‘What can I do?’” Michelle said. “I told her all about Suzie and that I was looking for someone with a well-behaved horse, to take it to Wigan so she could be near a horse again. I arranged for Suzie’s son to be there, to wheel her round – and I think the video is pretty self-explanatory.”

    Having warned her son not to get her too close to Darcy in case her wheelchair scared the mare, Suzie stood to meet Darcy and feed her treats.

    “She was completely overjoyed,” Michelle said. “When I spoke to her than night, she looked like a child – that grin! I said ‘You had your horsey moment’ and she said ‘I haven’t washed my hands yet’.”

    Arrangements have been made for Suzie’s ashes to be scattered, some on Snowdon and some on the gallops. But Suzie’s friends are concerned about the cost of her funeral.

    “She was such a hard worker but hasn’t been able to work for years because she’s registered disabled,” Michelle said. “So our friend Wendy has started a GoFundMe page to pay for her funeral so it doesn’t fall on her two boys, who are autistic. And I’m trying to set up a contingent of riders to be at the crematorium on their horses.

    “We can’t change the outcome but hopefully we can make it as easy for Suzie as we can. Gemma’s a carer and such a lovely girl. Suzie asked me afterwards to thank her and she said ‘I don’t think she knows what that meant’. I said ‘Yes, she does’.”

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