(Pictured is Triunfador "the kindest boy ever")

“As a Christian, I believe we should give, rather than take” says Fiona Lightfoot, Churchwarden in Helpringham. When making that statement she is speaking as a PCC Secretary, Parish Returns and Electoral Role officer. As a day job she is a Special Olympic Coach and Qualified Disabled Riding Instructor.

In the spirit of giving she has set up a community café in the church on a Wednesday morning so people can come together and chat and make new friends and the local village school are helping out so the old and the young can get to know one another. 

When not doing all of the above there are the animals on her and her husband Martin’s smallholding to care for. That includes horses, dogs, sheep, a rabbit and some chickens. Animals are a big part of Fiona’s life and she believes that they should come first in terms of care and feeding. 

“Looking after animals teaches responsibility, love and commitment” said Fiona, “you can’t dip in and out of caring for animals, it’s a 24/7 commitment.”

Prior to pursuing being a Riding for the Disabled Instructor Fiona had a very successful career in law. She left it in 1992 after a remarkable experience in 1991 between her pony Scooby and a 13 year-old profoundly autistic boy. He had never spoken a word to anyone and was classified as mute. Seeing the effect of that interaction changed her priorities.

The boy had come with his mum to see the horses and on the first visit he pressed his face up against the horses face and looked him in the eye and stroked his soft muzzle and then he left. He came a couple more times and did the same thing. Through sign language he communicated that he loved his time with the horses. One day Fiona asked him if he would like to sit on the pony and he nodded. This was the first time he had ever responded to a question.

He got him mounted and he sat on the pony and then got off. Over a few weeks they moved on and progressed to walking. One day the pony stopped and without really thinking Fiona told him to tell the pony to “walk on” meaning give a little kick as she had shown him. He didn’t do that. He said “walk on” not once but several times. He had found his voice and his first words were to an animal. Fiona and his mum were in floods of tears. His speech has since improved and he can now hold a conversation - but only whilst talking to the horses. His speech with humans is still limited.

This is one of many remarkable moments Fiona has had since becoming an instructor. She has a deaf and blind rider who show jumps by way of total trust between horse, rider and coach and other visually impaired riders who can navigate a course around the manege to the sound of a bell so they can get their bearings.

Fiona said: “When I struggle to find a solution to a particular problem, I pray, and I find those answers come to me. Jesus made a difference to so many people he met,  and animals can make a difference too. They don’t judge and see us all as equals. If everyone in the world was the same, it might be a better place.

“It is an enormous privilege to be able to give someone disabled, the tools to go and do something amazing.  That is all I can do. I can only equip them with the information they need and find ways of making it happen but they are the ones who throw their disability aside. They borrow the freedom the horse gives them, and they do it. If that's not a miracle then I don't know what is.”

Does she see God in these moments? “Yes, absolutely” said Fiona. “God has given me the ability to try and make a tiny difference to these people. If I can give someone confined to a wheelchair, or someone with severe learning disabilities, half an hour of sheer pleasure and enjoyment, what can be better than that?” she said.

Here is another picture of Triunfador. Fiona said that he worked hard for her and her Riding for the Disabled clients and is still being ridden by an 87 year old lady.