Mickey was a fantastic horse – he was a smart-looking, Thoroughbred cross and although some would argue that he was a lot of horse for a 14-year-old, he was as good as gold.
Okay, he was playful and put in the odd buck, but he wasn’t malicious and never frightened me.
I remember one summer, a group of us went for a hack after school. And my friends and I – and our horses and ponies – loved nothing better than going for a blast on the common.
There were five of us on that ride and I remember cantering across one of the many sandpits there – like big craters with banks that came up at the sides. We cantered up one of the banks and got to the top, but couldn’t go any further, because the ground dipped away into another crater. And it was then that Mickey swerved at the top and had me off. But I wasn’t worried, as I’d fallen off a thousand times before – it was all part and parcel of riding!
However, I did start to worry as Mickey took off. I thought he’d stay with the rest of the horses, but no, he was off, heading towards the road – a really fast road, with traffic thundering along.
My heart stopped… I just hoped he wouldn’t do anything silly and prayed he’d stop before he reached the road. And then I heard the sickening screech of brakes, but I couldn’t see anything… I was trying to pull myself up and out of the sand bank. And as I stood up on the edge of the crater, I could see what had happened…
Mickey had run out into the road and been hit by a van. I haven’t a clue how fast it had been travelling, but I’d guess pretty fast judging by Mickey’s injuries. I could see him lying on the floor – in a way, I hoped he was dead and not in pain. He could never survive a knock like that – or could he?
By the time I raced to the scene, lots of cars had stopped and people had crowded around. I pushed my way to the front and, disbelievingly, saw that Mickey was still breathing.
Then six men – three on each side of him – held him up and got him to his feet. He looked completely dazed, shocked, but there was an eerie sense of calm. He didn’t panic, but let the men get him to his feet, almost as if he knew they were trying to help him. He was a star and just stood patiently while I rang the vet.
And it was only then as we were waiting for the vet to arrive that I could see the full extent of Mickey’s injuries. He had this awful gash on his handsome face and then I saw his chest – there was a huge gaping wound. How on earth could he pull through from this?
The vet arrived quickly, but when he saw the extent of Mickey’s injuries, he suggested we put him down. However, I was having none of it – I knew Mickey very well. He was a fighter and I wanted to give him a chance…
The vet dressed the wound and I phoned my yard owner, who arrived with the horsebox and took Mickey back to the comfort of his stable. There, the vet stitched his wound and gave him a blood transfusion, as he had lost so much blood. Then all we could do was wait to see what the next few weeks would bring for Mickey.
Fortunately, as it was summer, he didn’t need to wear any rugs in the stable, which gave the wound a good chance to heal. And he had to be cross-tied for six weeks. It was heartbreaking to see him like that, but if he’d tried to lie down, he would have ripped the stitches open and there’d be the added problem of infection getting into the wound.
However, the chest wound healed really well, as did the gash on his face – he hadn’t needed stitches and the wound knitted together really well, leaving Mickey with just the smallest scar.
And gradually, I was able to bring him back into gentle work. However, he was terrible in traffic after that, the accident leaving an obvious mental scar. He was fine to ride down the quiet lanes around the yard, but became tense and anxious in heavier traffic, so I made a conscious effort to stay away from them.
We only had a couple more months together after that, as I had decided to buy my own horse. So Mickey went back to his owner, who was delighted to have him home.
The last I heard, he went back out on loan a few months later to another lovely home, which was great news. Not so great, however, was the news that came through on the grapevine a few months later… that Mickey had been kicked when he was out in the field and had to be put down.
What a cruel twist of fate, having made such a brilliant recovery from his horrific accident. Sometimes, life is just too cruel… I was devastated, but am just thankful for the fabulous time we had together and all my fond memories of him.