‘My best friend’: honour for pony who saved owner’s life

  • A rehomed pony who rescued her owner has been awarded two prizes in World Horse Welfare’s annual competition.

    Hampshire rehomer Barbara McMurray first saw rescue pony Sophie on Channel 4’s Pet Rescue in 1998 and the pair have been inseparable ever since.

    Sophie has become a central part of Barbara’s family and they enjoy driving together — the pony even helped rescue Barbara after a nasty accident several years ago.

    “When I rehomed Sophie, it was at a time when my children had grown up and I thought, ‘now it’s my turn to have a pony’,” said Barbara.

    “My father used to drive horses and I had always wanted to give it a go as my riding days were gone so this was the ideal opportunity.”

    Her friend broke Sophie to harness and the pony “took to it beautifully”.

    “Sophie has taught so many in riding and driving from tots to teens,” added Barbara.

    “My grandchildren have all learnt to ride thanks to Sophie and have been there, done it and got the t-shirt in all Pony Club activities from games to fancy dress.”

    Barbara and her late husband would often drive out together — Barbara and Sophie would drop him off at the pub, then go for a long drive and collect him on the way home.

    “One day, Sophie and I had a bad accident whilst out driving which left me stranded with a badly damaged knee and unable to call for help,” said Barbara.

    “Sophie trotted off back the way we’d come, carefully crossed the main road and went to stand outside the pub where she knew we’d left my husband earlier in the day to alert him that something was wrong.

    “For some time after she was very nervous but knew she needed to take care of me and we rebuilt our confidence together.”

    Barbara’s husband died in 2012 and it was Sophie who helped her through.

    “We talked a lot and had lots of hugs,” she said.

    “Having to get up and out each day caring for Sophie and my rescue dog kept me active and gave me a purpose and reason to keep going.

    “I’m now 72 and Sophie has been so good as we’ve grown old together.

    “We still go out for drives although climbing onto the trap takes me a bit of time but Sophie always looks round to check I’m on and ready before she sets off.

    “Sophie has been my best friend and soul mate, giving me a reason to get on with life no matter what it throws at us.”

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    Sophie was chosen as the winner of the “best friend” category by World Horse Welfare patron and radio DJ, Sara Cox, and has also won the charity’s rehomed horse of the year award.

    “I love that with Barbara, Sophie has affected so many lives in such a positive way — from teaching little ones riding to pulling the Santa sleigh around the village at Christmas,” said Sara.

    “When Barbara was devastated by the loss of her husband, I found it very touching that Sophie got her through it.

    “I love the idea of Sophie looking round and patiently waiting until Barbara is sitting down properly before they set off on their adventures.

    “A great story of true friendship, a real partnership and proof that horses and their owners can stick together through thick and thin no matter what life throws at them.”

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