Equestrian centre goes on market after accident ends Diane's career

CHAMPION Wombwell horsewoman Diane Smeaton has put her home, her business and her whole life so far up for sale, following a freak incident that tore her future to shreds.

In January this year, a horse in Diane's care turned on her to trample her leg, and her dreams, under its flying hooves.

Following four major operations to mend her shattered knee that was left with no kneecap to build from, Diane has just recovered from her trauma, although she is still reliant on crutches.

But as she can no longer ride and school horses at her Aldham Mill Equestrian and Yorkshire Dressage Centre, the 43-year old says she has no choice but to leave her purpose-built facility, that is now on the market for a cool 1.4 million.

For that princely sum, the buyer will gain a four bedroom bungalow with self contained annexe, an indoor riding school and horse walker, 39 internal stables, and a range of further buildings plus pasture land.

Diane developed the equestrian centre from the one-time pig farm that she grew up on, run by her father. When her dad Philip died, Diane's husband Michael left his globe-trotting business building water tanks to take over the farming at Wombwell.

"I was born here and it's all I've known. My dad's ashes are buried in the garden," said Diane, who hopes to make a fresh start on a smallholding in Northern France with Michael and four year old son Joshua Philip.

She is still suffering flashbacks and sleeplessness following the unprecedented attack by a horse she was lungeing. The realisation of her lost future dawned as clients drifted away, due to the fact that Diane could not give the service she had previously.

"That one incident destroyed everything I ever did since I was eight years old," said Diane, who started small, achieving her riding instruction qualifications and opening a riding school, which helped finance her dad's farm as that faltered.

When her father was kicked in the face by a horse and failed to recover properly, Diane closed her riding school to further her successful Yorkshire Dressage. She started her own stud line with four stallions, one of whom was Picobello, on whom she won Reserve Champion twice at the British Dressage National Championships at Warwickshire.

She went on to buy three young German horses to bring on, and hoped to do great things with them, when she had her accident, and was forced to sell them.

"I had hoped to get Pico to the Grand Prix," said Diane. "Everything was going so well. I was aiming to produce top class young horses and develop my name. I lost my purpose after January but we've had to keep going for my son, and we hope to create a new life in rural France, and put all this behind us.

"This set-up is ideal for a dressage or show-jumping business. It is right by the Trans-Pennine Way and it is idyllic. But I can't do it any more."

Her journey back to health has been tortuous. After she was found initially, with her gaping wound, by her husband, Diane lay on a trolley at Barnsley District General Hospital for five hours.

"The pain was terrible. After my first two operations I was in a pot for nine weeks then a fixed brace for two weeks. In the end I sold off the horsebox and various things and paid to see a Sheffield specialist who said another operation was vital. So it was more open surgery, then again when septicaemia set in.

“I couldn’t explain to people what this has all been like, but I’m trying to be positive and we’re moving on..”

Diane never thought that the nature of her business would be what finished her. “I’ve been in this over 25 years and thought I’d seen it all with horses. But since my experience I’ve heard of others like it. I changed from three-day eventing to dressage after five people were killed because the courses became so extreme.

“I was lucky I survived my ordeal. Joshua could have lost his mum..”