A SALISBURY woman is hoping to raise money for an animal charity in memory of her beloved horse, which died just before its 35th birthday.

When Marion Gilbert bought Bacca, a nine-year-old show jumping mare, in 1988 she had no idea what an important role the horse would play in her life and what they would go through together.

Marion was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer in 1997 and, with a 15-month-old baby to care for as well, friends and family advised her to give up Bacca, but she couldn’t face it.

Friends rallied round and fundraised and Marion had experimental treatment in Mexico while her husband Mark looked after their daughter Hannah, and other owners at the yard where Bacca was kept looked after the horse.

Mrs Gilbert said she found Bacca an inspiration, and looking after the horse was a big part of what kept her going through a difficult time.

The life expectancy of a horse is 25 to 30 years, so Bacca lived a very long life.

She was still a healthy horse, but had to be put down just days before her 35th birthday after an accident, leaving Marion devastated.

“It was so heartbreaking and I had to make that awful decision,” she said. “She was part of the family and that leaves a huge hole.”

In a further blow, an administration error meant Mrs Gilbert didn’t receive any of Bacca’s ashes after the horse was cremated.

But while planning a family holiday to Crete, Mrs Gilbert discovered Walk With Donkeys, a charity that runs a sanctuary on the island for retired or abandoned donkeys, horses and mules.

“I thought ‘this is meant to be’ and I decided to do a fundraiser in Bacca’s memory,” she said. “I’ve got nothing to remember her by and this seemed fitting.”

Marion will be holding a Drink to Bacca’s memory event at the Green Dragon pub in Alderbury on Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm, with a collection for the donkey sanctuary, which she will take to them when she goes on holiday in August.