Pony helps young boy from Leigh Park learn to talk thanks to their 'unreal' bond
A young boy from Leigh Park has been ‘given a voice’ by his pony, leading him to achieve international riding success.
Freddie Tyler-Fowlie, 11, has disabilities and was non-verbal until the age of seven.
It was at this age that he met a pony named Drift, who then belonged to his mum’s friend.
Mum Carla Fowlie said: ‘Freddie has always been in love with Drift, and we noticed that he was trying to talk when he was near him.’
Before meeting the 17-year-old pony, Freddie used a system of Maketon and non-verbal cues to communicate with his family.
Freddie lives with his mum and dad, and he also has two sisters and four brothers.
Carla, 35, was delighted to take on Drift when her friend offered the pony to their family, and shortly afterwards she began to notice changes in Freddie’s speech.
She said: ‘A week after getting Drift, Freddie was starting to say words - but only to Drift.
‘Single words turned into recognisable words turned into sentences, but only ever towards Drift.
‘Within a month, Freddie was beginning to produce clear three word sentences.
‘Eventually Freddie was crystal clear and speaking in full sentences with Drift.’
After his family helped him build up his confidence, Freddie began talking to other horses, and eventually to people.
Carla, who has also been a keen rider since a very young age, said: ‘The pony really has given him a voice.’
Now, the family ride every day, training in Rowlands Castle which is where the horses are kept.
Due to Freddie’s disabilities, the two ride ‘bitless’, meaning that any sudden movements from Freddie will not hurt Drift’s mouth.
Supported by his family, Freddie takes part in national and international riding competitions.
He submitted a dressage video to the International Registry of Bitless Equestrians (IROBE), and placed sixth on its worldwide Open Dressage League leaderboard.
Freddie is given further support by Phillippa Christie, who sponsors Freddie through her business Equine Partnership, offering him lessons, advice, time and equipment.
Carla said: ‘There’s not many opportunities for bitless dressage in this country and they’ve made it possible for us to push through.
‘I’d like to thank Phillipa Christie and Nina Hellier-Fields, who runs IROBE, for giving us these opportunities.’
Freddie is also planning to have a go at jumping, as his sponsor Phillippa has made him a special custom jump saddle, and looks forward to more dressage tests in the summer.
Carla said: ‘Freddie doesn’t let his disabilities hold him back’.