Yorkie - British Animal Honours 2013, Ray of Sunshine Winner

Yorkie (Yorkin Madoc), a 20 year old, grey, Welsh Section D pony has been a much loved celebrity at Springbridge Carriage Driving Centre for a number of years, particularly among the many friends he has made through his work for Springbridge Carriage Driving for the Disabled. His recent success in the Animal Honours Awards 2013, broadcast by ITV, has ensured that his fame has now reached a national audience.

The British Animal Honours Awards is a brand new event that celebrates the achievements of the country’s most extraordinary animals and the people who work with them. Yorkie was nominated in the Ray of Sunshine category which was to honour an animal whose work across an entire community has brought comfort, joy and hope to those who need it most.

Yorkie’s journey to the winner’s podium began earlier in the year when news reached Springbridge that he had been nominated. A nail-biting period followed whilst nominations were considered. Everyone at Springbridge was delighted – if a little nervous - to hear that Yorkie had been shortlisted for an award and a camera crew would be visiting Springbridge to film him during a typical day.

Yorkie - British Animal Honours 2013, Ray of Sunshine Winner

Being filmed mucking out first thing in the morning was a new experience for Linda Cotterill and Jane Stretton (RDA organisers), but this was only the start of a hectic day when all aspects of Yorkie’s life were recorded. The camera crew quickly grasped the workings of a busy stable yard and were very easy to work with. They were determined to capture as much about life at Springbridge as they could – which meant that the cameras rolled all day long – with only an occasional retake!

To capture Yorkie in his regular role, filming took place on a Carriage Driving for the Disabled day. Whilst the weather remained dry it was bitterly cold, but clients and volunteers were enthusiastic and joined in willingly – more than happy to support Yorkie in his bid to win his category.

Volunteers were filmed at their pre-drive meeting, when the day’s responsibilities were shared, and then grooming, harnessing and putting to before ensuring each client was safely aboard. Filming Yorkie driving out offered a challenge – until the camera crew installed themselves, rear facing, on a carriage to be driven in front of Yorkie! A small camera fastened to the front of Yorkie’s carriage filmed close ups of the whip and client.

A number of interviews were conducted which supported the impact that contact with Yorkie has had on individuals over the years. These give testament to the enormous value that Driving for the Disabled adds to the lives of those fortunate enough to experience it. The interviews also clearly demonstrated that the extended support offered by Linda and Jane had, in some cases, been life changing. One young client brought a tear to everyone’s eye when being filmed talking to Yorkie. Her comment ‘I love you Yorkie’ summarised what everyone feels.

As the crew finally drove out of the yard there was a sigh of relief – but had everyone done enough to secure Yorkie’s success? It was to be a tense wait until the call finally came, inviting Linda and Jane to accompany Yorkie to Elstree Studios to be filmed during the Awards programme.

The journey to the studios was uneventful which gave Yorkie time to relax and prepare for his moment in the spotlight. On arrival, everyone agreed that to take Yorkie into the studio with a cheering, clapping audience and bright lights was not a good idea. Instead a small paddock was created especially for him off-stage. The afternoon was taken up with rehearsals. Yorkie took everything in his stride – including meeting a variety of well-known faces from the television programmes being filmed that day at Elstree. Soon the programme was underway.

After a fabulous introduction by host Paul O’Grady, Yorkie’s film was shown. It had been edited from the Springbridge day’s filming to around five minutes. There can’t be many who watched and didn’t shed a tear. Following the film, Linda and Yorkie were interviewed by Paul O’Grady during which Linda conveyed the very special qualities that enable Yorkie to have such an effect on so many people.

The Award for Ray of Sunshine was presented by television stars Lesley Nicol and Thomas Howes from Downton Abbey, who made a terrific fuss of Yorkie. The medal commemorating his award will take pride of place in Yorkie’s stable.

Yorkie and his team were invited to the after show party – he put in a brief appearance, but then retired to his box for supper and a well-earned rest prior to the journey home.

It was a weary group who made their way back to Springbridge Carriage Driving Centre late in the evening with only Yorkie still up on his toes – clearly savouring his television debut. What a tale he had to tell his stable mates!

Should you wish to support Springbridge Carriage Driving for the Disabled please visit their website http://springbridgerda.weebly.com or alternatively go to Mydonate and view the Springbridge page

Image Credit: Guy Levy