When Jasmine and her new owner met, both were struggling to cope in life – but, together, they found the light at the end of the tunnel....
“It just felt like she understood,” said Amanda Gaughran, of her Blue Cross rescue horse Jasmine.
When the 56-year-old rehomed the cob in 2014, she was on the brink. Her beloved daughter, Genna, had died 18 months earlier from a brain tumour, aged 26, and the crippling grief left her deeply depressed, at times suicidal.
Desperate to help Amanda, husband Ed and son Phillip encouraged her to get a rescue horse to give her a focus.
The family already kept two horses in the stable yard attached to their Norfolk home, but these were ridden by showjumper Phillip. And Amanda was keen to get back into riding, having loved horses since her childhood.
She approached our Rolleston centre having heard about our work at Burghley Horse Trials, and they knew that the gypsy cob who was rescued along with 70 other mistreated horses, had the potential to be a perfect match. Amanda needed no convincing.
As it turned out, the demons of Jasmine’s past meant that she could not be ridden as hoped – but she became so much more than Amanda could ever have imagined. She was a lifeline when she needed it the most.
“I didn’t realise how poorly I had got until I had to leave the job that I really liked,” said Amanda, who went on to spend some time in hospital while she recovered.
“I had got myself in a right state. I was at home a lot on my own and the other horses would look at me as if to say: ‘what’s the matter with you?’
She continued: “But Jasmine seemed to understand. I’d go in there and cry in her mane and give her a cuddle, and she’d nuzzle me as if to say: ‘everything’s going to be okay, mum.’
“She followed me everywhere. On good days she would look at me out of those big kind eyes and I swear she was smiling at me. On bad days she would come to me and with a gentle nudge would remind me she was there for me.
“She seemed to feel what you were feeling and understand what you were going through; maybe because she’d been through something similar herself.”
I’d go in there and cry in her mane and give her a cuddle, and she’d nuzzle me, as if to say: ‘everything’s going to be okay, mum’.” Amanda Gaughran
At first, Jasmine was a shell of the horse she is today. Many things scared her and, if spooked by something, she would shake in fear.
Nobody knows what trauma lies in her past, but when she arrived at Blue Cross, she was severely malnourished.
Amanda said: “The way I described her when she came to us was depressed, and that’s how I had got, and the anxiety that went with it.”
Slowly but surely, though, the real Jasmine began to shine through, thanks to her incredible bond with Amanda.
Amanda said: “Gradually over the years, she has become an absolute poppet and very confident in her own skin. You still can’t ride her, she panics, so we just let Jasmine be Jasmine. She’s an amazing horse – lively and cheeky.”
Jasmine also enjoys spending time with best friends Chucky and Smudge, who share their stable yard with the family’s two other horses, Alvin and Freddie.
Far from the quivering wreck she once was, Jasmine has even entered in hand showing competitions with Phillip’s wife Jean as her handler and has secured several rosettes.
And just as Jasmine has put her darkest days behind her, so has Amanda.
“Gradually I recovered from the depression,” said Amanda. “Although I miss Genna terribly, I know she wouldn’t want my life to stop because of her.”
She added: “Caring for Jasmine gave me a purpose. We rescued each other in our times of need.
“I think she was sent to help me. It proves what great healers horses can be.”