A rider who has overcome severe health issues including losing most of her sight says it is her horse Coco — who is also partially sighted — who has given her the strength to carry on.
Caroline Murphy told H&H she considered suicide at her lowest point when, having spent 10 years bed-bound with ME, or chronic fatigue, she was diagnosed with a condition that involves having too much fluid in the brain, which had permanently damaged her optic nerve.
She is now blind in her right eye and has very little vision in the left. She also suffers from hypermobility, degenerating discs in her back and neck, anxiety and depression.
“When I became visually impaired, it was such a horrible situation, I attempted suicide,” Caroline said. “I spent 24 hours a day in my room, I had no life and I didn’t want to be here any more.
“Coco has literally saved my life.”
Having decided she did not want to “just rot in bed”, and having ridden as a child, Caroline decided to find out whether she could get back in the saddle — and she could.
She rode a gelding called Orbit at a local yard for some weeks, regaining her skill and confidence.
“I was the happiest I’d been in for ever,” she said. “I wanted to ride more and more, and then there was this horse.”
Caroline said Coco had a reputation for spooking and spinning, but she wanted to ride her. And one week, she had her chance.
“I was so nervous, but so excited,” she said. “I got on her, and it was like she knew me; I’ve never felt a connection like that with a horse. It sounds silly but it was as if she said to me: ‘I know what you’re going through’.”
Caroline rode Coco more and more and eventually, was able to buy her. She signed up for her vet’s health plan, part of which was a general check.
“We knew she had melanomas by her left eye, but in the right one, the vet found a lump. She’s completely blind in that eye, and of course that explains so much; she was spinning because she was trying to see out of her good eye.
“We’re both visually impaired and blind in the same eyes; I thought this is a new life for both of us.”
Coco is undergoing treatment that, it is hoped, will improve the vision in her left eye, but Caroline said the 13-year-old mare has been happy on fun rides, jumping and a day’s drag-hunting — “that was incredible; we galloped all day and I never thought I’d do anything like that” — as well as lessons with Paralympian Lee Pearson.
“She’s my world,” Caroline said. “She’s been through the mill but she saved me so I’m trying to save her too.
“If anyone was considering a blind horse, or one with one eye, I’d say don’t be put off whatsoever. They might take a little longer to process things but she’s the most sane horse ever.
“She’s made so much difference to me. I’m so embarrassed about the way I look but I’m proud when I’m out with her; she’s made me so much more confident as a person. She’s changed too, I don’t think either of us would recognise who we were before.
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“I’ve been through a lot of trauma, and violence, and didn’t know how to move through it but she’s been my therapist – you can’t buy what a horse gives you.
“She speaks to me silently but I hear her so loudly, and that’s priceless.”
And Caroline hopes her experiences might help others.
“It’s a cliche but there really is no such word as can’t,” she said. “I never thought I could get on a horse again.
“Set yourself goals, it doesn’t matter if they’re way up in the sky but find a way to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and there’s a way round everything. I truly believe that.”
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