A teenager is taking to the hunting field side-saddle in aid of charity on a horse who beat the odds to overcome a supposedly career-ending injury.
William Pittendrigh will ride his Royal International Horse Show champion Constellation II, known as “Alf” to his friends, side-saddle for a day’s hunting with the Tynedale tomorrow (23 December) in aid of Cancer Research UK.
William, 18, has produced Alf from a four-year-old and the pair have enjoyed major showing successes together, including many appearances at the Royal International.
The 10-year-old skewbald cob was competing in a Horse of the Year Show working hunter qualifier at the Scottish Horse Show in July 2016 when he tore a collateral ligament at the final fence.
The gelding was on six months of box rest and vets warned the family that he may never be able to return to ridden work.
“He behaved phenomenally on box rest,” said William’s mother, Sarah. “It was like this horse knew, he never whinged or whined or box-walked, he just seemed to know what was needed.”
They then gradually brought him back into work.
Alf made good progress and returned to the show ring to contest some non-jumping classes.
The combination qualified for this year’s Royal International in maxi cob and coloured cob classes.
They topped their achievements by taking the skewbald and piebald amateur championship title at the Royal International (pictured, below), just 12 months after they were told the horse may never be ridden again, and the combination are back to enjoying jumping and hunting.
“He is just the best,” said William.
“He just exceeds all expectations — I never thought I would compete him again, never mind champion at the Royal International.”
He added he wanted to try riding side-saddle as his mother had done it in the past, and then came up with the idea of combining it with raising money for a cause close to home.
“I contacted Bruce Thorpley, who is well known in the side-saddle world, and he let me ride his stallion Cos Me Is Black and that was amazing!” said William.
“I wasn’t sure who I was going to ride for the challenge, but I had always wanted to do it on Alf.
“I had to find a side-saddle and that was like finding a needle in a hay stack.”
Gail Brown came to the rescue with a side-saddle that fitted both William and Alf, who took to it instantly.
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William admitted he looked like a “complete beginner” when he tried side-saddle for the first time, but has got into the swing of it.
“I’m nervous, but Alf loves his hunting so I am very excited,” said William.
Sarah added she is “hugely proud” of her son and the time and care he has put in to bringing Alf back into work and full fitness.
William chose Cancer Research UK as he lost his grandparents to cancer and his mother has also undergone treatment for two malignant melanomas.
His fundraising total has passed £1,800 and William hopes to raise £2,000.
Visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/william-pittendrigh to donate.
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