Belfast Telegraph

Game Of Thrones extra, almost trampled to death, hails the noble steed who brought her back from brink

By Una Brankin

A Game Of Thrones extra almost killed while training a horse has spoken of how she fought back from the brink of death – with the help of a charming animal.

Lorna Doone's recovery from horrific injuries will come full circle later this month when she takes her horse – X Rated – to compete in a prestigious competition.

Known to his family as Arnie, the handsome animal will become the first Fresian stallion from Northern Ireland to compete in the annual Dressage Masters competition in Hickstead in England.

The event will mark an emotional occasion for 39-year-old Lorna, who has battled back to full health – and her career as a horse trainer – with no little help from Arnie.

Lorna – who had a sword fight with Sean Bean and drove a cart drawn by X Rated in the hit fantasy drama – began training the black thoroughbred a year ago, along with his rider, Sharon Watters (35), a teacher from Templepatrick.

Despite still suffering from the near-fatal injuries she received when a badly-behaved horse kicked her to the ground, Lorna threw herself into the gruelling training regime and the effort has paid off.

She had been asked to work with the unruly horse when it reared up against her, sending her crashing to the ground with its hooves.

"My ribs were smashed to pieces, my collarbone was broken, my lung was punctured and my diaphragm was crushed," the Glenavy woman explained.

Determined to return to the saddle, Arnie and his gentle nature was part of her rehabilitation, and nearly a year later she was able to ride once more.

"It took me 10 months to get back up on X Rated after that," she said.

"But he is a legend – he is known everywhere for his ridiculously good manners. He's everything you'd want in a man – he's charming, intelligent and unbelievably gentle, despite the size of him."

Apart from Game Of Thrones, X Rated is used to rubbing flanks with stars, having appeared in the film Your Highness, a 2011 American fantasy comedy.

After a glittering career in film, Arnie is now bound for Hickstead to compete under his stable name.

X Rated has had many successful wins at regional level in local dressage competitions, and has twice qualified to compete in national championships.

"It was an unknown venture for both myself and Sharon when we started a year ago but X Rated has surpassed all our expectations," said Lorna.

"In April we travelled to Cavan for the Dressage Ireland Winter National Championships, and although only starting out on the ladder of the many levels in dressage, we had an amazing championship.

"We took the national title, winning the preliminary championship, and therefore qualifying to compete at Hickstead from June 24-28."

For rider Sharon, who teaches at Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus, competing at Hickstead is a dream come true.

She switched from show-jumping to dressage six years ago, training under Laragh Hamilton, one of Ireland's leading dressage riders and a three-time national champion.

"X Rated is such a special horse with so much potential to do well," said Sharon.

"Getting to the Hickstead Dressage Masters is a fantastic opportunity.

"It will bring together the top horse-and-rider combinations from all across the UK. It also gives people like myself, who do not work with horses professionally, the opportunity to experience riding at an international venue."

  • Lorna Doone thanked Bondelivery for sponsoring transport costs. Anyone interested in sponsorship can contact Lorna on 07984 458583

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X Rated is a Fresian stallion which will be the first from Northern Ireland to compete at the prestigious Dressage Masters competition in Hickstead. Known to his family as Arnie, he is a huge black 16-hand thoroughbred with a gentle nature. Owned by Glenavy hairdresser Lorna Doone, Arnie has starred in the smash hit television series Game Of Thrones and Your Highness, a 2011 American fantasy comedy film.

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