Piebald gelding Hercules arrived at the charity’s Glenda Spooner Farm in Somerset in 2011 with chronic grass sickness.
Vets gave him just a 2% chance of survival but following care from World Horse Welfare staff he made a full recovery.
He was rehomed as a three-year-old to Alison Ironside, who continued his education before backing him to ride.
“In March 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after various surgeries, treatments, drugs, plus many months sat in a chair I decided that it was time I started riding again,” said Ms Ironside.
“Out of all my ponies I knew that Hercules was the one I could trust to look after me in my very weak state. In true caring fashion, even at his young age, Hercules seemed to understand the situation — patiently and carefully carrying me around the lanes never putting a foot wrong.
“He is a pony that took a lot to save but he is a pony that has given everything he can back.”
Olympic gold-medallist Jane Holderness-Roddam
awarded Hercules the top spot in the awards’ faithful friend category.
“Hercules appeared to recognise and respond to his owner’s needs when she was ill and curtailed his natural exuberance throughout her rehabilitation,” said Jane. “This inbuilt sensitivity shows true friendship.”
Hercules was also chosen to receive the supreme champion accolade by World Horse Welfare’s chief executive, Roly Owers.
“Their bond of trust epitomises the close relationship between horse and owner. While we had so many fantastic entries, I feel that Hercules has well and truly earned his supreme champion award,” said Roly.
Celebrating rescue horses and ponies
World Horse Welfare invited nominations from its 1,700 horses and ponies currently out in homes. Three categories were open for entries, including funniest anecdote and biggest achievement, as well as faithful friend.
The winner of the funniest anecdote category was Wally, thanks to his tendencies of stealing his rehomer’s walking stick, grinning for a peppermint and peeing on command.
“I just loved the images of Wally peeing on command, and removing dad’s walking stick,” said Olympic dressage rider Richard Davison, who crowned Wally the winner.
“It must be chaotic ensuring Wally pees precisely on cue, while Dad is sending Maydays from halfway down the field because his walking stick has been removed. What must the neighbours think?”
The winner of the biggest achievement category was family pony Su, who has given 16 years of service to the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).
“In the end, Su pipped it for me because she has clearly helped so many people through her long experience at the RDA, and that kind of life-changing achievement may not be recognised elsewhere,” said Olympic eventer and World Horse Welfare patron Pippa Funnell, who chose Su as the winner.