Last Friday I drove over to Great Wigborough, near Colchester, to the ‘Tottle Ranch’ to meet Hannah Tottle and her family.
Their home is nicknamed the ‘ranch’ because they have two horses, two sheep, two cats, two dogs, six chickens, one turkey, one tortoise, a rabbit and four goldfish! Quite the collection. Hannah lives there with her husband, Will, and two year-old daughter, Polly Ava.
But the star of the show on Friday was Hannah’s nineteen year-old Welsh C cross, Honey. Hannah has owned Honey for twelve years and she had previously been used mainly as a driving pony.
Hannah bought her when all of her friends moved away for university or careers and she became quite lonely. Hannah says, “I put her in livery and made a entirely new life for myself. She made me grow up and take responsibility, and helped me make more friends and get a life and purpose. She helped me love and trust,something that I didn’t do easily.”
“She is the most greedy, stubborn horse on the planet, but she has the kindest heart and she’s saved me from many a dark place!” Hannah and Honey had had a go at dressage and showing together, but apparently often came last, lol. With the help of an amazing instructor, who advised Hannah to ‘stop trying to make a silk purse out of a sals ear’ and work with what she had, things finally started coming together and they started enjoying their work and collecting ribbons!
In 2011 Honey became poorly, suffering from colic and eventually being diagnosed with gastric ulcers. Post treatment she also suffered from laminitis, due to stress and they began treating her for equine metabolic syndrome.
Hannah says that thanks to the lovely Carolyn at Catley Cross, 90kg weight loss and thirteen weeks later, she had her special girl back and the decision was made to stick to happy hacking from then on.
Sadly, due to everything that she had going on, Honey missed Hannah and Will’s wedding and Hannah had desperately hoped she could be there, hence our shoot last week. Hannah finally wanted photographs in her dream dress, with her dream pony!
Honey is now completely retired and lives at home on Tottle Ranch, as a pampered princess, with her best friend, Lily the Shetland. Hannah says that Honey’s ailments take a lot of time and effort to manage and she likes having her at home to make that easier. Unfortunately Honey now also has a large melanoma under her tail, which they have battled to keep free from infection throughout the summer months. Having exhasuted all treatmeent options they are now living with a ‘wait and see’ attitude and have no idea what the future will bring for Honey.
“I’d spend millions if I could save her,” Hannah says. “Now we make sure she has the best life possible. We could have months left, it could be years, but either way I will make sure she knows just how loved she is! My horse has never just been a horse. She’s my best friend. And I am blessed and utterly grateful to have this life. ”
And that right there is totally why I do this job. Capturing that on camera is the biggest honour and my absolute passion!
Thank you so much to Hannah, Will and Polly, for being fab models and for inviting me over to the Tottle Ranch. I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon with you!