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Ian is doing well after open heart surgery

Manilla’s Ian Furner always considered himself a very fit and healthy individual. But his recent rushed trip to the Gold Coast for unexpected open heart surgery was not only a wake up call for he and wife Yvette, but also somewhat of a shock to his attending surgeon.

“The surgeon was gobsmacked at just how many fit and healthy people are going to see him now,” said Yvette Furner on her husband’s return to Manilla for recouperation.

“He felt that heart disease, as far as genetics was concerned, is extraordinary. Ian and I walk the dogs 40 minutes a day, and consider ourselves very fit and healthy, but this was an absolute shock.”

Yvette, well known around the small town for her Manilla Animal Minding business, was pleased to report though that Ian is well on the road to recovery. A big cog in aiding that recovery though was the quick trip home of son Todd, who is currently 18 months into his three-year military posting in Malaysia.

Todd was the only member of his family to fly to Australia – wife Samantha and children Chaise (13), Kade (11) and 10-year-old Dillan remained home due to Covid restrictions, Yvette said.

“He was brought home on compassionate leave. He had to spend two weeks in quarantine in Brisbane, two weeks in lockdown here with us when Ian came home, then will have to spend a further two weeks in quarantine again when he gets back to Malaysia. It was interesting though that only 11 people boarded the plane on his flight back to Singapore.”

Needless to say Ian and Todd spent a “lot of quality time together” for the short visit home.

“It was tremendous having Todd home. It’ll be another 18 months before we see him and the whole family back home again.”

Retirees Ian (a qualified cricket umpire and keen bowler) and Yvette made the tree-change to Manilla from Darwin three years ago, choosing Manilla because of its perfect terrain for Yvette’s other passion – carriage driving.

“I started 20 years ago, had a few years away then got back into it again six years ago,” Yvette said.

The sport of carriage driving, which involves dressage, showing, presentation and driving skills, can take enthusiasts to every state nationally. But Yvette admits to being in her happy place when competing in the CDE (Combined Driving Event).

“CDE, which is basically the answer to eventing, was brought to Australia by Prince Phillip when he was our Patron many years ago. He came up with the concept of CDE which starts with dressage and followed by a timed cones course. Next day we do the marathon which can be anything up to 15 kilometres through a variety of different properties or small towns. This will include many obstacles –all are timed. We’re given a map, have to memorise it, then drive through the course at speed, so you really need to be a very athletic and competent driver. The marathon is considered one of the most dangerous equine sports worldwide.”

On any given day, Yvette can be seen (accompanied by fellow carriage enthusiasts Marg Neeley and Liz O’Brien) driving her miniature mare Victoria around Manilla. All three belong to Tamworth Regional Horse Drawn Club, which is considered one of the most active larger clubs in Australia, according to Yvette.

“We also have a very active junior group who are supported beautifully by both parents and the members. They say it takes a village to raise a child and a village to raise a harness horse to compete effectively. We need plenty of helpers within the club. You don’t have to own a horse to be involved – we’re always looking for extras to help out.

“Covid has slowed things down a bit, and we’ll be back once everything has opened up again, but carriage driving is something you can do with the horse while in lockdown at home.” By Vinnie Todd

Yvette Furner and her harness pony