Horse whisperers in wheelchairs

ZIP: Marion milner and Talita van Rooyen with Dominique Rey and Michel Rey, back. © Unknown.
ZIP: Marion milner and Talita van Rooyen with Dominique Rey and Michel Rey, back. © Unknown.



KwaZulu-Natal is a province filled with diversity and cultures, and horses play a prominent part in making this countryside so interesting and beautiful.

From the many well-known stud farms in the Natal Midlands, to private riding schools and leisure equestrian centres along the coast, this is the playground for not only the Sport of Kings, but also polo.

Unfortunately, as in many other sports, things sometimes go wrong and accidents happen, and one is suddenly confronted with tragedy, trauma, pain and suffering. Because I have always wanted to contribute towards a cause assisting injured horse riders, I have decided, with the permission of Nick and the Rey family, to establish the Nicholas Rey Foundation Trust.

Nick had a tragic polo accident in June 2004 which left him with a severe brain injury. Despite his injury, he remains an avid horse lover, with his interacting with horses forming part of his therapy. His determination and will to live make it an honour to connect his name with this drive.

I have discussed this concept with Nick and his wife, Gayle. Nick has indicated his willingness to be the patron of the foundation.

Nick was born in Durban on December 30 1964. The family grew up on a sugar farm in Umhlali, on the North Coast. Nick, at a very early age, developed an affection for and understanding of horses. He used to travel by bus to junior school in Umhlali with his brothers.

By the time Nick was 14 years old, he joined his father and uncle, and sometimes his brothers, on the polo field at Ottawa, near Verulam, where they all played. The Ottawa Polo Club still exists today.

Nick started school at Umhlali Primary School, then went to St Charles College for Boys in Pietermaritzburg. He later went to Durban High School where he completed his schooling.

After he had graduated and worked for a few years, he took a "gap year" and went overseas. He spent most of his time in the US, working with horses - either grooming, exercising and training polo ponies or simply playing polo.

On returning to South Africa, with limited finances, he would buy or acquire "green" horses and train them for polo so he could get back into the game, and sell off the odd one to fund his passion. His gift for training horses is amazing because he has such patience. His gentle ways win them over. He loves being around his ponies more than anything. He has always been an excellent horseman, shining on the polo field and treating his horses with admirable kindness.