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Blind horse opening eyes for Pinkerton Academy equestrian club

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2014 9:02PM
Freshman Lillian “Lily” Hannah, a member of Pinkerton Academy's Equestrian Club, rides her blind horse Pet on Hampton Beach. (COURTESY)
1971 book features NH horse trainer
Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY — Although Pet is Pinkerton Academy's first blind horse, another sightless equine from the Granite State once became the subject of a book.

Published in 1971, the book is called “The Blind Connemara” by C.W. Anderson, said Equestrian Club adviser Suzanne Pedneault. It is based on a woman from New Hampshire, Rhonda Watts, who used to give jumping demonstrations with the pony that was the focus of the book, Pedneault said.

“I read the book as a child, and it has been one of my favorites,” said Pedneault, who just recently realized that it was based on Watts.

Watts still lives in the area, Pedneault said. She recently reached out to her on Facebook in an effort to get some tips for Pet and her rider, Lillian “Lily” Hannah, a freshman at Pinkerton. Although she hasn't received a response back yet, Pedneault remains hopeful.

In the book, the pony is brought over to the U.S. from Ireland and is able to complete jumps, something Pet will not be attempting, Pedneault said.

But after a few months, the horse begins to shy away when confronting some obstacles along its path, according to the book. The pony's blindness is discovered after he is taken to a veterinarian. Not wanting to put the animal down, his rider “Rhonda” agrees to work with the pony and help him learn to jump again.

The book is available on Amazon.

DERRY — Pet, a blind horse, is leading members of the Pinkerton Academy Equestrian Club this year on a path of discovery.

She will be ridden by her owner of five years, Pinkerton freshman Lillian "Lily" Hannah. Suzanne Pedneault, the club's adviser, said Pet has been blind since she was 5 years old because of a degenerative condition. The horse is now about 22.

"You have to be more confident in what you do and how you ride her — she's depending on you," Lily Hannah said. "And you have to be her eyes and guide her."

Pet responds to such commands as "step up," Lily's mother, Liz Hannah, said. Give that direction, and she will step over a log or other obstacle.

"You really wouldn't know if you saw her moving and trotting and so forth," Liz Hannah said. "It's absolutely phenomenal to see her move."

The Equestrian Club will be participating this year in the New Hampshire High School Equestrian Teams' competitions.

"Pet's participation will be a first for both Pinkerton and the NHHSET," Pedneault said.

Lily is getting Pet ready to compete in the shows that will be held starting on March 29 at Brookvale Pines Farm, 154 Martin Road, in Fremont, Pedneault said.

Pet gets plenty of exercise and is ridden on a regular basis.

She is capable of riding on trails and has even been taken to the beach, Liz Hannah said.

Guiding Pet along a trail requires some changes in how directions are given, she said.

The rider also needs to be more aware of the surroundings and potential obstacles.

"Pet is fully functional, but you do need to be conscious of what the ground looks like," she said.

If there is an obstacle ahead in the trail, the rider needs to be her eyes.

"She's very responsive to your leg, but you do need to tell her 'There's a log on the trail,' and 'We are coming up on a log.'" Liz Hannah said.

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