The adage goes: If you fall off, get back on. But when 11-year-old Charlotte Caulfield took a tumble from her pony Seren while out hunting with the Cheshire Drag Hunt in Cheshire, England, this winter, she took that challenge very seriously.
Caulfield and Seren hit a boggy patch while galloping, and both went down. But Caulfield got up, got back on, and jumped the final hedge, smiling and laughing the whole time.
“I saw my friend in front of me, and her horse was kind of struggling through the mud. I was going towards it, and I thought he would jump it because he usually jumps big patches of mud. Then he didn’t and fell into it,” she said. “The photographer was up the hill, and he took a photo of me before he came and helped me. I couldn’t see anything because there was so much mud in my eyes. I tried to wipe them, but my gloves were full of mud as well, so that made it worse. I was really cold!”
Caulfield’s mother, Louise, was waiting for her to finish her ride when a huntsman came up to her and said they’d both fallen. Charlotte suffers from adrenal insufficiency, so Louise was prepared to take action with an injection kit she carries.
“My immediate thought was, ‘Oh my goodness, I need to get her injection ready.’ They said she was coming back on the quad bike, which follows the hunt around and closes gates,” said Louise. “Then I stopped, because I thought I could hear her, and I looked over towards the hills, and I could hear some sort of loud laughing, and I thought, ‘I’m sure that’s Charlotte,’ so I stood there quite still.
“I saw two of her friends cantering up the hill in front of her, and then I saw Charlotte, and she was shrieking with laughter, and her two friends were laughing as well. I was just absolutely shocked. I just couldn’t believe how much mud was on her and the pony, and she was fine!”
Charlotte’s positive attitude serves her well. She’s suffered from hearing loss since infancy, had to wear a hearing aid until she was 7, and she has had three grommet surgeries to place tube in her ear drum. She’s also suffered from severe asthma attacks since she was an infant, some causing heart failure.
Due to her adrenal insufficiency, she undergoes frequent MRI scans, and her most recent scan revealed a growth at the base of her brain. It’s too soon to tell how serious it is and what the treatment will be, but according to Louise, Charlotte takes it all in stride.
“She’s been lucky she’s carried on, really. But she’s a very brave and very happy little girl,” she said. “She’s so laidback. She manages extremely well, and she stays extremely calm. She’s very grown up and mature and sensible about it. We all just say, ‘Well you know, let’s just have fun today, and we’ll worry about what happens when it happens.’ At the moment, we just carry on every day and try to have as much fun as possible.”
Seren, an 11-year-old pony of unknown breeding, had never jumped when Charlotte got him last year, but he’s learned to love hunting and show jumping. She has four other ponies that she shows and has made it all the way to the prestigious Horse Of The Year Show since starting to ride six years ago.
“When we got him, he didn’t like jumping at all,” said Charlotte. “He wouldn’t even go over a crosspole. I didn’t really want to take him out because I thought he would be really bad and really slow. But I took him out, and he was really good. Since then he’s been very good in the school as well. It’s really boosted his confidence.”
This story ran in the May 1 issue of the Chronicle. Like what you’ve read? Consider subscribing!