DERRY — Pet knows a lot about the world around her, especially when it comes to the high school equestrian world.
The 22-year-old horse has been blind since she was 5 years old. She is a member of the Pinkerton Academy equestrian team, along with her owner and freshman rider Lily Hannah. She suffers from a degenerative eye condition.
Both Pet and Lily were hard at work Saturday during a team practice at Monks Stables in Chester.
The young equestrians compete as part of the New Hampshire High School Equestrian Teams network, which pits young riders against teams from 21 high schools in four school districts.
Other schools with teams include Londonderry, Dover, Timberlane and Oyster River. Windham High will start an equestrian team next year.
“Participants can compete in all disciplines of riding,” team advisor Suzanne Pedneault said.
Pedneault said she enjoys coaching the 35-member team. She loves horses and said this is the first time in about 30 years she doesn’t have her own.
It’s a popular club. The students own their horses or lease them.
The Hannah family has owned Pet for several years.
Tom Hannah said his daughter is a good rider, and she and Pet have a strong bond.
“There was an instant connection between her and Pet,” he said.
Pet also contributes well to the team, Pedneault said.
“Most blind horses don’t end up having this type of advantage,” she said. “To go from being a sighted animal and then not having sight, her confidence in the way she moves, it’s amazing to me.”
Lily and Pet have a special relationship that helps the horse understand the commands and what to do during a contest.
She maneuvers Pet through intricate designs in the riding ring, using words and her legs as signals and commands.