Chin UP, Heels DOWN

Drue Fellona & Itsy - Picture courtesy of Christine Fellona

BY Christine Fellona

This is the story of tragedy turned into triumph for 10 year old equestrian, Drue Fellona. This past March, Drue had just purchased her second pony. Sully was a four year old welsh/warmblood sport horse pony who had a puppy dog personality and a jump that could clear three feet.

Drue spent countless hours working with Sully both on the ground and in the saddle. Sully was just mastering his lead changes and figuring out how to jump. Over the course of five months, Drue was able to take Sully to over twelve shows that were both local and rated. Locally they showed in the Children’s division and at rated shows in the 2ft division.

Drue had aspirations of continuing to get her zig zaggy pony straight to the jumps, build his confidence, and work their way to qualifying for pony finals over the next year and a half.

Drue & Sully – Picture courtesy of Christine Fellona

On September 10, 2023 Drue’s world was turned upside down as we were traveling home from a horse show in New Jersey. The poor weather conditions caused the show to end early. On our ride home from the show, the trailer hauling Sully and another pony became detached from the hitch and crashed into a tree. All happening right in front of Drue.

Drue was in the car directly behind the trailer. After heroic attempts by other barn members and emergency services to try and save Sully, he didn’t make it and passed away. The trauma from this event has had a significant impact on Drue.

Losing your pony is one thing, but watching it happen and not be able to do anything about it is a whole different story. Drue was left feeling empty and hopeless. She made a promise that day to her parents that she wouldn’t let this tragic event prevent her from doing the thing she loved most, which was riding. Drue is working through the trauma by attending therapy at an animal wellness center which focuses on providing support for people with PTSD.

Drue & Sully – Picture courtesy of Christine Fellona

After three days of not going to the barn, Drue said she was ready to go back to the place she loves most. Was it easy? No, but it was exactly what she needed. Drue spent a few weeks having the luxury of riding her trainer’s 17.2 hand warmblood, which she fell head over heels for him. He is the epitome of a gentle giant.

It was only a matter of time before another equine mom who follows Heelsdowndrue on Instagram, but has zero connection to us, reached out to offer her son’s pony, which he had outgrown as a free care lease. Not knowing if this was the right thing to do or not, an agreement was made and within a matter of days, Itsy was on her way to help mend a little girl’s heart.

Due to the immense generosity of Kirsten Crawford, Itsy arrived at the end of September. That exact day, Drue put one leg over the saddle and off she and Itsy went. Drue has since spent every single day learning about Itsy and building a bond with her. They say there are heart horses, and horses that heal your heart.

Drue & Itsy – Picture courtesy of Christine Fellona

While Itsy can never replace Sully, she can and has healed Drue’s heart. Itsy is as sweet as they come and takes great care of Drue. The Crawfords are the true definition of generosity and have certainly played an integral part in Drue’s triumph during a time of tragedy. The bond that Drue and Itsy are forming is a beautiful thing to watch and a true testimony to Drue’s passion for riding.

Drue and Itsy have been successful in the show ring thus far, and recently won a 2ft derby out of 20 riders. The original plan was to send Itsy back to her owner, Jack Crawford at the end of our care lease, however, God had different plans. Itsy has since become a part of our family as we were offered the opportunity to purchase her, which we did.

Drue & Itsy – Picture courtesy of Christine Fellona

Drue has set some large goals for herself and Itsy. After being in a partnership with one another for just four months, Drue has decided that she would like to try qualify for Pony Finals this year.

Throughout all of this, at the age of ten, Drue is learning how to handle hard better. She isn’t waiting for things to get easier, but rather has taken something that has been extremely hard and has learned to turn it into something good.

This little story is the true definition of tragedy turned into testimony, and if Drue is able to share her story with other young girls dealing with similar situations, maybe, just maybe she can be the light they need in order to press forward and keep chasing their dreams.