Gripper and Boy - "I've helped him and he's helped me"

Trevor Harrison - "everyone calls me Gripper" - has had to deal with a lot of adversity in his life.

And meeting a standardbred he called Boy earlier this year has given him a major and unexpected boost.

In January 2002 Harrison, who lives at Matamata, broke his neck in a car accident.

"I was pretty munted," he says, "they gave me a 5 per cent chance of ever walking again, on crutches."

He spent six months at the Otara Spinal Unit.

"I'm what they call an incomplete walking tetraplegic," Harrison says, "I can walk but with a limp on my right side.

He's now the patron of the New Zealand Spinal Trust and fund-raised over $100,000 for people with spinal injuries.

In January this year, nearly 20 years to the day since his life-changing accident, Harrison meet the horse who would turn into "his mate".

As the Matamata-based manager of the Waikato horse ambulance he was tasked with picking up a horse in poor condition from Ngaruawahia in the Waikato.

The horse was a standardbred, who had raced as Major Bro. By Art Major out of Pricilla Bromac, he'd had just the one race day start, finishing 11th on debut at Cambridge in October 2020. He was then used a galloping pacemaker.

Harrison decided to call him "Boy" after Taika Waititi's cult classic.

At the time the plan was to take Boy back to the SPCA's property and then ultimately foster him out to someone who'd look after him properly. But that's not the way things worked out.

Gripper, as he puts it, "fell in love with him" and they have become good buddies.

"I've helped him and he's helped me."

"Every morning he's waiting at the door - he's neighing and carrying on - he's my mate".

Just recently Harrison, a former jumps jockey and race day attendant, climbed aboard Boy and rode a horse for the first time since his accident.

"My mate Scotty built a ramp for me because I haven't got the leg strength to get on him by myself."

"He (Boy) looked after me and nothing was a worry."

Boy is often ridden by other people as well as being fussed over by locals with pats, and just as importantly carrots and apples.

"In some ways he's the People's Horse - everyone loves the little fella."

Harrison says the horse's transformation has been a real team effort, and he's especially thankful to Diana-Crystal Chen who owns the property where Boy is based, and to Dougal Scott at McMillan Equine Feeds for "all the food they provide for the SPCA horses."

As for future?

Boy is still only a four-year-old and Harrison says his mate isn't going anywhere. Last month he oficially adopted him from the SPCA.

"He's going to get the best life."

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