Horse Owner Clare – Battles Against the Odds by Volunteer writer Catherine Green
How often have the morning headlines left you feeling flat? Constant bombardment by bad news makes it easy to forget that good things happen too. Positive stories are a tonic for the soul and nothing delivers this so directly for me than hearing of others who have triumphed against adversity.
Clare Molyneux from Inverness is just one such inspiration. In 1970, as a young woman, Clare’s future seemed certain. Working as a groom to professional show jumpers it was an exciting time, but fate was to strike a bitter blow. On a routine hack across moorland one morning, something spooked her young horse. It reared and spun around, losing it’s balance and falling over backwards on top of Clare. The large stone, which Clare landed upon, fractured her spine instantly paralysing her from the waist down. Life would never be the same.
“I was told I would never walk again and that the severity of the injury was too great for recovery.”
Grim words. Just how might one manage such an awful prognosis? Time to hang up the riding boots and rethink life? Not Clare.
“I was back on a horse as soon as I was home and as my riding and balance became stronger my mobility became better, until by 1974 I was walking unaided.”
Not content with confounding the medical profession, Clare then began instructing and running her own livery yard. She also returned to competitive riding. With a championship success at the Royal Highland Show, she was then placed at Olympia in the Mountain and Moorland Championships. It was a poignant moment. Clare was obviously unable to run with the horse in hand, a vital part of the showing process and the rules stated that only the rider could do this.
“It took many letters and phone calls to get them to accept someone else leading the pony, and even when we were in the ring we did not know whether we would be allowed to have this concession.”
It is a testament to Clare’s determination, the same determination that saw her walk again. But it is also a brutal reminder of how much harder the disabled must work to create that level playing field.
Cruelly, Clare’s resolve was to be tested once more. By 2006, her leg felt weaker and she was falling over more frequently. The spinal fracture was unstable and it was decided to fuse the vertebrae; but things did not go well.
“I woke up from the anaesthetic paralysed again. The surgeons chose to re-open the wound and figure out what had gone wrong… it took 9 hours in the operating theatre.”
As if things couldn’t get worse, Clare then contracted the deadly infection MRSA in her spine. Things were critical and she remained in hospital for a further 7 months. Yet again, her tremendous resolve saw her through and if thirty years previous, Clare had shown great determination, what she now went on to achieve defies belief.
“My main aim once home was to get back on a horse. I knew I had done it once before and I was determined I was going to achieve it again.”
Naturally, she succeeded. What’s more, her coach Erik Mackechnie (Paralympics Representative for Scotland) introduced her to competitive para-dressage, whereupon she was selected for the Scottish team in the British Dressage Para Home Internationals.
And in a beautiful highlight to a hard fought career, Clare was chosen to represent Great Britain in the prestigious FEI Para-Dressage 2* International at Bishop Burton 2011. Not bad for a lady in her sixties who had been to hell and back (twice).
“I was so proud of wearing the Union Jack and felt exhilarated, gloriously happy and full of enthusiasm. It was a time in my life that I realised life was worth living.”
Yet something was missing. After decades of struggle Clare had no suitable horse of her own. Her competition ride was only a loan so the hunt was on to find something extra special. Not easy on limited funds. Luckily though, Clare was aware of the alarming amount of horses requiring new homes and living in rescue centres. She approached a new rehoming charity gaining rapid admiration in the equine world called Horses4Homes who, as luck would have it, had just the “missing piece”.
He came in the shape of a rather handsome bay gelding called Harri-Beau, owned by Lisa Betts. Perhaps it was fate dealing a kinder, softer blow.
“There was just some magical pull… every time I went on the website he was still there…”
Harri (for short) was a cheeky and unbroken two-year-old cob in need of a new home due to Lisa’s recent separation. Lisa had been drawn to Horses4Homes as the organisation assists in rehoming directly from old owner to new and it’s proving to be a highly successful model.
“I wanted to have some input into the type of home I felt Harri needed to fulfil his potential and I don’t feel I would have achieved that on the open market.”
Clare then, was the experienced and knowledgeable owner that Lisa had been searching for. Harri’s future with Clare became a reality when he made the journey to Scotland to join her and her little Shetland pony Buzz.
“When the lorry ramp came down he looked a little shell-shocked. Buzz neighed and that was it, he walked calmly into the field and they immediately got on with eating the grass.”
Backing a young horse is not something for the faint-hearted of course, but then this is Clare. Harri will have to get used to her limited mobility and wheelchair, alongside lots of other things horses may not normally encounter, but by the end of 2014 Clare intends to start riding him. It will be another remarkable achievement from a remarkable woman.
“I have great hopes that he will provide me with the friendship, companionship and ride that will carry me over hill and dale…”
A happy ending in which one imagines them riding off into the sunset together.
“If I get to compete at dressage it will be locally – however, who knows what the future holds….?”
You just can’t keep this woman down.
For an update on how Harri- Beau is doing click here.
Please support Horses4Homes to help more horses like Harri find super homes with people like Clare. By donating just a few pounds a month you can make all the difference. The charity works incredibly hard to promote each horse listed (free of charge) to find it the very best of homes. We have very limited funds and work very efficiently indeed, keeping costs to an absolute minimum but the demand for our services far exceeds the resources available so please help us to help more horses.
It was delight to read this article about Clare.
I know Clare as a friend, and a good friend at that. Over the years she has worked tirelessly for Pony Club, BHS, RDA to mention a few. She is a great ambassador for our sport and profession. I have always found Clare to be positive and encouraging and she says it as it is and likes to get things done.
Although she has had to cope with great adversity in her life, she just gets on with it. Thank you for writing this article and sharing her achievements with us.
She indeed is a very amazing woman and an inspiration to us all. Thank you Clare.
Thank you for your lovely comment Jackie, we too believe Clare to be an absolute inspiration and ambassador for “getting on with life despite what it has to throw at you” she has immense determination, inner strength and as you say a beauty for saying it “how it is” which is very refreshing.
Clare has been my coach, mentor and friend for over twenty years. Clare is the bravest most courageous true lady I know. Life with all it’s ups and downs just pushes Clare harder. It’s clares amazing “get up and go” that keeps me striving forward through pain. Clare you are amazing. Heather
I’ve known Clare for many years and her determination in the face of adversity is amazing. It’s great news that she’s found her new horse and I wish her every success.