Splash, a 10-yearold cob who has been at Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club for five years, is Inspirational Animal of the Year in the Daily Mirror Animal Hero Awards.
Naomi Howgate, general manager of the club said: “He is the most patient and kind horse and has not only taught hundreds of young people to ride, but also helped them with their confidence and been a true friend to them.
“I could put someone on him who has never ridden, and they would be fine.
“He has helped those scared of horses, those who have a physical disability or additional needs – and yet he is so patient and kind and they know they can trust him.
“He is and has always been a hero to us and deserves all the recognition that comes with this award.
“He will be getting plenty of extra carrots in his dinner tonight”.
Splash was nominated by the Ebony team for his role at the club where he takes part in riding lessons and horse care sessions benefitting well over 100 young people each week.
One of the people Splash has helped is Mikhi Fearon, who arrived at Ebony Horse Club as an 11-year-old who was scared of the animals.
Now 17, he is not only a keen rider, but has a bright future – thanks in part to Splash.
“When I first came, I was actually afraid of horses,” Mikhi says, “but I soon grew to love them.
“It is such a unique location, there is nothing like it around here and has helped so many young people like me.
“Ebony has given me so many opportunities and skills. I have learnt so much about horses and nature and Splash in particular helped me gain so much confidence.
“At school I was really energetic and I did not know how to control that but, through coming here, I learnt that horses react to your vibes, and it helped me calm down.
“I soon realised you couldn’t be excited all the time next to a horse, especially Splash, who can also be excitable.
“I feel like Splash is one of the nicest and most mischievous horses I have met.
“He is definitely a hero to me, he is the only horse who has helped me in so many areas become the man I am now.”
Ebony’s engagement manager, David Fleming, said: “Splash is a gentleman. He has also proven to be very successful working with young people with additional needs due to his gentle nature.
“I have worked with many horses, and Splash is a truly unique and inspirational individual.”
South London youngsters who attend the charity have little or no other access to animals and nature and often face many challenges.
Splash, and seven equine colleagues, help these youngsters to learn to ride and also to develop skills like empathy and communication.
Splash has also taken part in another charity project in Brixton prison, won rosettes at riding competitions, taken part in a Blue Peter challenge and visited Clarence House, home to the charity’s president HRH Duchess of Cornwall.
The club, based in railway arches next to Wyck Gardens off Barrington Road, works to improve the life skills, education and aspirations of disadvantaged children and young people growing up in deprived communities in and around Brixton by offering access to horse riding, horse care, and youth work activities like trips and mentoring.
Despite the pandemic, it was able to run a full summer of activities, vital for children who had spent several months in lockdown.
The Animal Hero Awards are run by the Daily Mirror on an annual basis.