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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Rita proves determination is the best asset for success

ABOVE: Rita de Bon and Puffin have become eventing stars. Picture: MANE MEMORIES

RITA de Bon is a 15-year-old event rider with dreams of competing at the highest level. Despite being born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and battling the disease all through her young life, horses have been part of it.

“She is determined,” her mother, Bhakti, said. “And even though at times the CF interferes, she knows what she wants to achieve and continues on.”

Lisa Green, of Mane Memories photography and one of Rita’s supporters, can vouch for that after meeting Rita, who is from Lorne in Victoria, through Barwon Valley Pony Club.

“I photograph all their events and Rita stood out to me because of her determination and positive attitude,” she said.

“She was always encouraging her friends and helping where she could. I got to know her mum, and often chatted while I was shooting. I had no idea about the CF in the beginning.”

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body.

ABOVE: Rita de Bon rides with 70 per cent lung capacity. Picture: MANE MEMORIES

Rita has about 70 per cent lung capacity but since beginning a drug called Trikafta, her lung function has improved by 25 per cent, she has grown to 163cm and now weighs 50kg.

Although Cystic fibrosis is seriously debilitating condition, Rita and her white pony Misty (Flash Velvet Grey) have done extremely well at lower-level eventing and pony club, so as she became taller and more ambitious, the family began to looks for a bigger horse.

Although her mother said no Thoroughbreds, they did look at one, a 16hh gelding named Puffin and Rita instantly fell in love.

“This is my horse,” she said. Unfortunately, after a two-day trial the horse went lame and his owner agreed that she would turn him out into the paddock and he could stay there. But Rita insisted that “Puffin will return”, a phrase she was to use several times in the next nine months.

Eventually, with Rita still determined that “her horse” would return, a discussion was had with the horse’s owner and a thorough vet check conducted. This showed Puffin merely had thin hoof walls and they were reunited. Since then, the partnership has been developing slowly.

Bhakti said he didn’t show a huge aptitude for eventing but Rita took him slowly and steadily and, now named Velvet Well Fit Returns, the horse has justified her faith. They have worked their way up through the grades from 80cm to 95cm and finally, at the Woady Yalloak Horse trials, completed the open one-star class.

They have made the B Group development squad for eventing and Rita was awarded the Variety Club’s Young Sports Achiever Award.

The youngster and her special horse have come a long way.

ABOVE: Rita and Misty before she moved on to Puffin. Picture: MANE MEMORIES

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