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Heath’s Donkey Man was an ‘inspiration’
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
A horse trainer who provided donkey rides for children for more than six decades has died.
Lenny Thorne, who had been running the donkey rides on Blackheath since he was 14, died suddenly aged 78.
The great-grandfather had been battling lung cancer for many years but died in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Stadium Road, Woolwich, on Wednesday last week while receiving treatment for a spine problem.
Known locally as “The Donkey Man”, Mr Thorne will be remembered fondly by generations of children and dog walkers. As well as looking after the donkeys, Mr Thorne was a highly skilled horse trainer and helped his daughter rear Dales ponies.
A colt called Imco Double which he trained in the 1990s was later ridden by Lester Piggott at Lingfield Racecourse.
His family hope to give him a horse-drawn funeral outside Blackheath Gate, where the donkeys could be found every weekend.
But the site, which is between the Olympic horse-riding venue in Greenwich Park and Circus Fields, which is being used for support services during the Games, is currently out of bounds to the public.
Mr Thorne’s daughter Lorayne Ahmet has asked Olympic bosses if they can hold a remembrance service for him there between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, before he is buried in Charlton Cemetery.
Mr Thorne, who was told in November he had to find a new grazing site for this donkeys because the field the donkeys had used for 34 years off Shooters Hill was earmarked for the building of an equestrian college. A new site was eventually found for the donkeys in Eltham.
Mrs Ahmet said: “He was the most inspiring and wonderful man.
“So many children have learnt to ride on his donkeys over the years.
“He was my riding instructor and inspired me to go on and study equestrian sciences.
“He taught me and my daughters, who also ride, all we know about horses.
“Donkeys were his passion but he also had an affinity with horses and had a really good eye to pick the best ones. “Last year we were at an event where a show-jumping horse bolted and he managed to stop it, even though he was on his mobility bike.”
Mrs Ahmet said the family intend to run the donkey rides again when the Paralympics have finished.
She said: “We really want to keep the rides going for the children and we would be very grateful if people could continue to support us by coming down.” Mr Thorne’s family also hopes to set up a memorial fund to help keep the donkey rides up and running. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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