Darius didn’t have a brilliant start in life. As a yearling he had a bad accident and his owners couldn’t afford his veterinary treatment. They were advised to have Darius put to sleep but they desperately wanted to give him a chance in life so they asked the charity, Blue Cross, for help.
After much investigation it was discovered that Darius had an infection in his shoulder and it was that which was causing him all the problems. With a course of antibiotics – and lots of love, hard work and dedication from Blue Cross staff – Darius made an amazing recovery and grew into a fantastic riding pony.
However, his problems didn’t end there. Because of his size, Darius went through several loan homes over the years. He’s given many children lots of joy, but the nature of being a child’s pony has meant that he’s been outgrown by several children, and had to move on to a new home every two to three years. However, in his current home Darius the charity case pony has become a national superstar!
Darius has been a much-loved member of his current family since 2007 when mum Su spotted him on the Blue Cross loan scheme. At the time, he was taken on for elder daughter Katie who had lots of fun with Darius but she, too, outgrew him eventually. But luckily for Darius, Katie had a younger sister, Becky, waiting in the wings to take over the ride on Darius.
Darius and Becky formed a firm partnership and now regularly compete in horseball, a fast-paced sport which is becoming more and more popular in the UK. As members of the Twin Trees Horseball Club junior team they often travel around the country to take part in tournaments. Darius, now 18 years old, is still learning new tricks and is fast becoming a whizz at horseball.
The game is a cross between polo, rugby and basketball. Teams win points by shooting balls through a high net. Riders have to pick up a ball from the ground in a daring James Bond-style manoeuvre, but Becky says it’s not as scary as it looks, “It’s such good fun and you get the hang of it quite quickly,” she says. “The first thing we learned was how to pick up the ball. It was a bit nerve-racking trying to reach right down to the floor, but it soon got easier.”
Four riders in each team are on the field at any one time, playing two halves which last between seven and 10 minutes each. “It’s not a long time but it seems like it when you’re on the field,” says Becky. “You’re going pretty fast but it’s great fun. I’d recommend horseball to anyone.”
Su is just as fond of Darius as Becky. She says, “Darius epitomizes a good family pony. You know your children are going to be safe with him and he’s really keen to try things. We started horseball in 2008 after we saw an advertisement saying the local riding school was hosting a have-a-go session. We went down with Darius and just got bitten by the bug. Within a few months we were competing. Darius loves the buzz of competition – he really enjoys going to tournaments and he flies around having a great time.”