Barnsley rider ‘took own life’ after loss of beloved horse

Steph Lees riding Jake in 2009.  Image: Ross Parry Agency

Steph Lees riding Jake in 2009. Image: Ross Parry Agency

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A passionate horse rider left broken-hearted when her beloved steed was put down took her own life as “she couldn’t bear to be parted” from him, her parents said.

Chartered surveyor Steph Lees, 42, of Cawthorne, Barnsley, died that day after Jake, her horse of ten years, was put down.

Steph with Elliot in 2000, Elliot was Steph's other horse who was put to sleep in 2011. Image: Ross Parry Agency

Steph with Elliot in 2000, Elliot was Steph's other horse who was put to sleep in 2011. Image: Ross Parry Agency

Her grieving mother, Jo Lees, said: “Steph couldn’t bear to be parted from Jake and made a decision to join him.

“Jake had become lame about 18-months ago and Steph spent much of her spare time looking after him and trying to get him fit.”

Her father John, said: “She just wanted to join him which is in some ways a happy thing, but also very sad. The horse was her life.”

Miss Lees, who started riding at the age of ten, trained in dressage and was a member of the Rockwood Harriers hunt. Members of the club this week followed her funeral cortege on horseback.

“It was really the loss of Jake which broke her heart,” Mrs Lees said. “She hadn’t been able to ride him and devoted most of her spare time to looking after him. She absolutely adored him, they were very close.”

The couple had not known that the horse was going to be put down and were told the devastating news about their daughter by police.

Miss Lees’ body had been discovered near the stables her horse was kept on November 9, the day after the animal was put down.

A funeral was held at Barnsley crematorium on Tuesday, followed by a celebration of Steph’s life at Cawthorne parish church.

Mr Lees said the family, including Miss Lees’ elder sister Jane, had received ‘massive support’ from the riding community.

Craig Herriman, honourary club secretary of the Rockwood Harriers Hunt, said: “Her horse was her life and hunting was her life, she lived for it.

“It was just such a shock when we heard, its not something you would have expected. Members of the hunt attended her funeral. She had a horse drawn carriage and six pairs of hounds, the master huntsman and two hunt staff followed behind it.

“The hunt staff were dressed for the hunt as was Steph’s sister who rode by the master huntsman in a fitting tribute.”

Mr Herriman said the funeral procession wound its way around Cawthorne village before stopping for a poignant send off.

“The master then stopped, stood behind the carriage and blew the tone for home to send Steph off to the crematorium,” he added.

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