Rhona’s ‘second chance’ at dream

Second chance: Rhona on Shannon
Second chance: Rhona on Shannon

There will be one proud and highly delighted Barton grandmother this week when she steps into the dressage arena at Myerscough on her beloved horse.

For not only has Rhona Tasker qualified for the British Horse Society’s dressage to music regional finals at the age of 73, but this achievement, she says, is a second chance for both herself and her horse, Shannon.

“It’s a real Black Beauty story,” said Rhona, explaining that after harbouring a lifelong ambition to compete in dressage, she was finally able to do this with her palamino Welsh Cross, Cleo about five years ago.

This came about after Rhona was able to buy her own wagon for the first time. Also, young rider Jess Thompson, who had been successfully competing on Cleo for Rhona, grew too tall to ride her.

She said: “It has given me a new lease of life, although sadly late in life. But I have never had to go on a diet and I am still the weight I was when I was pregnant with my first daughter.”

Together, Rhona says she and Cleo “did reasonably well,” qualifying for the regional dressage to music finals in 2009.

But disaster struck in November 2011, when Cleo, who suffered from a heart murmur, dropped dead from a suspected heart attack in the marina at Myerscough, stunning all who knew her.

“I was devastated, but everyone was absolutely wonderful at the yard. I received 13 cards of condolence and two A4 sheets of messages printed out from Facebook. We even had a commemorative lunch to celebrate her life,” she said.

Ironically, however, in July 2011, Rhona says she had agreed to take back a horse she had previously owned called Shannon, who she had given to a friend 10 years earlier.

Shannon was not in the best of health, but thanks to nursing from Rhona and schooling, encouragement and other help from friends Amy and Kelly at Myerscough, Rhona started riding her in January 2012.

Despite being “thrown” the first time they competed, Rhona says she “got back in the saddle” and went on to compete in more competitions at Myerscough and Barton, with a goal of reaching this week’s regional, which she found out they had qualified for just weeks ago.

Addicted to dressage since she was a little girl, Rhona concluded: “We will probably come near the bottom of the class, but I am just so pleased to have qualified. We compete under the name of “Second Chance” and it is a second chance for me and a second chance for my horse.”