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Frodo's Journey to Royal Windsor - Part One
At just a few months old, tiny foal Frodo was discovered by Field Officer Rachel Andrews collapsed, emaciated and freezing in a field in Cheshire. Against all the odds, our dedicated team brought him back from the brink and here his groom Nicolle shares his journey from being thrown away like rubbish, to the national show ring.
Working on the front line of the very worst cases of abuse in the UK means that sadly I see many decent horses and ponies arrive in such a neglected state that it’s impossible to know if they will every fully recover. I remember when Frodo first arrived at our isolation yard he looked so frail; it was a bitterly cold October day and he had been abandoned in a field with no protection from the cold and barely any food or water so he was just a skeleton covered in matted, lice-ridden fur. When a horse can’t stand on their own it means their body has started to shut down. Thankfully with Frodo being so tiny, the team could physically support him and get him to the safety of the farm quickly.
- Frodo when he was found
By three months old foals are usually starting to look for mischief, but Frodo was so poorly he had absolutely no spark. He was crawling with lice and infested with worms, as well as very dehydrated so despite him being extremely underweight he was unable to eat. Three months is about the age that a foal could be successfully weaned, so we started him on a very special diet to help him build up much-needed strength. Initially, he needed round the clock veterinary care and we had to introduce food very slowly to avoid further complications, such as colic and other gastrointestinal problems. But once we’d clipped him out to get rid of the lice, rugged him up and put him in a thick bed of straw, with the right food it was incredible to see how well he responded. Within just a few weeks he had grown physically stronger and began to gain confidence. It was pretty clear that he was a real fighter.
- Frodo on arrival at Penny Farm, October 2014
Within a few months Frodo was out in the field enjoying life on the farm and one of our regular youngster handlers, Jan, offered to rehome him. This was his perfect starter home, as she spent the time teaching him lovely manners and he enjoyed plenty of consistent handling during those first three years. Jan recognised that Frodo had loads of potential and Frodo returned to Penny Farm to be backed just ahead of the summer of 2018. Once he’d settled back in it was clear that he had all the qualities for the show ring. Work began to get Frodo to Equifest.
Because his handling was so good, he was really trusting and well-mannered. We began some hill work to strengthen his muscles as well as long-reining to get him used to wearing a bit and to respond to leg and rein aids. This also helped him to become well balanced. Frodo’s past should have put him at a disadvantage, but as soon as muscle tone was established he transformed into a proper little show pony. He moved beautifully, he was responsive and his manners, particularly for such a young pony, were impeccable. Equifest was becoming an even more exciting prospect!
- Frodo in summer 2018
As August approached I was schooling him three or four times a week as well as hacking him out. It was a demanding schedule, especially since I look after several other horses on the yard too, but it was really enjoyable seeing him make so much progress and I was determined not to let him down – I knew we both had to work hard so he could reach his potential. He took everything in his stride and the only unknown was how he would take to the excited crowds and the indoor show ring, with all its lights and unfamiliar noises. We did lots of desensitisation with Frodo, such as getting the other grooms to wave flags, clap and cheer around him and as usual he lapped it all up!
Frodo didn’t disappoint! He loved the attention he received at Equifest and nothing daunted him as he’s so laid back and trusts that we aren’t going to put him into a situation he couldn’t handle. We not only left with two first prizes, but he was crowned RSPCA PRP Rescue Pony Champion. This was a truly amazing achievement, as he was only four years old and had been backed for less than 8 weeks.
Frodo became an overnight superstar, featuring in Horse and Hound, having a double-page-spread in the Daily Mail as well as all over news channels, including ITV. His story had truly gone viral and visitors poured in to meet him! Everyone loved him as he’s so friendly and regular visitors to Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre were so proud of him! Although Frodo is a beautiful pony inside and out, we couldn’t have predicted such an incredible outcome – but it goes to show that having a tough start in life shouldn’t hold you back from reaching for the stars.
And so came an invitation for Frodo to compete at the Royal Windsor Horse Show...