For a young girl from Mere, for whom life can be very tough, a pony called Danny has provided an amazing lifeline. The 20-year-old pony, Vlacq Anaxar (Shah Shadow x Bala Milkmaid), is helping 12-year-old Araminta Thompson to cope with twice daily sessions of intensive physiotherapy and a daily regime of injections, inhalers and nebulisers along with numerous pills and antibiotics.
Araminta, known as Minty to all, a pupil at GillinghamSchool, has cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and asthma. She injects three different types of insulin up to four times a day. She also suffers from anxiety and has treatment sessions with a psychologist every four weeks.
|Danny UK Champ|
“It’s Danny, however, that has been the best cure for her,” says mum, Katherine. “Since buying the Arabian x Welsh pony six months ago, he has played a crucial role in her everyday well-being. Despite having to take more than 25,000 pills each year to help her stay alive, Minty manages to compete, and win. Danny and Minty have become a brilliant combination and are starting to do really well in equestrian disciplines including cross-country, show-jumping, working hunter, and dressage. Her trainer, Nikki Forbes at Kingfisher Stud in Wincanton, has enabled her to really flourish.”
“She’s had a tough year, all in all. At the start of the year Minty was diagnosed with a bug called non-microbial abcessus that lives in the soil and she contracted it into her lungs. It meant a four-week hospital admission for intravenous antibiotics that, in themselves, could cause problems given the powerful drugs she required.
“Minty’s kidneys bled and she had to have a break for a week but continued the final three weeks of her treatment. In the final week she developed side effects to the antibiotics with a fever topping 40.3 degrees Celsius. The antibiotic fever meant the treatment had to stop, but fortunately, by that point, she had received a sufficient dosage to eradicate the bug.
“As her body returned to normal, she was back on board Danny within a few weeks of being allowed home from hospital. Subsequent tests showed she was clear of the bug; however, months of treatment would still be necessary. Nevertheless, Minty was soon back out on the campaign trail with Danny, taking the regional shows one at a time and doing very well. Just three weeks out of hospital, they went to their first show of 2016 and cleaned up!”
As a South and West Wiltshire Pony Club member, Minty and her flying pony were part of the winning team at the Bovington RAC Team Show Jumping event where she also won her class as an individual. They qualified for the Junior Show-jumping Championships of Great Britain held at Cricklands at the end of August, where they took two third places in speed classes, with massive entries. They are then of too the PC grass roots dressage finals. From just two runs at eventing, at Cattistock and Portman, they won their section with double clears, finishing on their dressage scores of 73% and 84% respectively.
Plans are to train regularly with Nikki and compete at indoor show-jumping over the winter, as well as dressage, with a view to focussing next year on one-day eventing, perhaps the biggest challenge to any horse and rider combination. Katherine proudly explains, “I hope Minty’s story demonstrates that dreams and aspirations really can come true, despite a disability or health issues, if you keep on trying. Without her pony though, I’m sure she would not have managed to cope with all her medical issues half as well as she does. I look at the joy on Minty’s face and see all the pain she’s been going through just melt away whenever she’s out flying on Danny. This pony has totally made her life complete.”
Danny, often described as ‘the happiest horse on the planet’, is known for his sweet temperament and love of his job. He gets a little jealous if Minty rides other ponies and Katherine explains, “Age is just a number to him, and he’s so versatile. In six short months, Minty has progressed from being scared to canter to flying around cross country courses and tricky tracks of show jumps. He has a home for life with us.”
Breeder, Sue Pyke says: “Danny has done his job for several young jockeys, and along the way he has converted a few doubters to the suitability of part-bred Arabians as children’s ponies. It’s lovely that they keep in touch. One common thing among them all is that everyone has adored him.”
Paying tribute to her beloved pony, Minty said: “Without Danny, my life would feel empty and I don’t know how I would be able to cope. He gives me a reason to get up every day.”
|Danny & Minty eventing|
The Thompson family moved to Mere earlier this year so that they could be closer to Salisbury District Hospital where Minty attends the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, although Southampton University Hospital oversees her treatment under renowned respiratory specialist Dr Julian Legg. Minty continues to be an inspiration to all those around her, including her own family. Two of her three half-sisters have been so impressed by her that they have gone into the nursing profession. Her parents, Mike and Katherine, ran the Southampton Half Marathon in April to raise money for new equipment at the Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Salisbury Hospital as a thank you for looking after Minty so well.
Katherine reflects, saying: “Minty is an incredibly brave and determined young lady, and she is very bright. Despite missing more than 132 days of school last year, she still ended up being at the top of the class. We are hoping to attract some sponsorship for her as she is a very talented rider. She could do so much more if we had the financial support to help her. She has such big dreams for her and Danny so if there is anyone out there that may be interested in supporting this gifted young rider, in any small way, please get in touch (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). I think they have a bright future ahead of them!”