This time last year I saw a post on Facebook about a challenge to raise money for Hannah Francis’s Willberry Wonder Pony charity. Hannah was a talented young eventer who passed away last Summer due to osteosarcoma, and had set up a charity to help other young people with conditions like hers. The challenge was for riders who had not evented before to complete a BE80 during the 2017 season. The challenge was targeted at ‘wimpy, middle aged riders’ so I fitted the bill! In my late 40’s and although a keen rider I limited my activities to low level dressage and hacking. Even the thought of jumping makes me feel very nervous so I knew it was going to be a big ask.
I should say a bit about my Wobbleberry partner Bob. I’ve owned Bob for 8 years and he’s a 15.3 ID x TB who is now 15. As Bob has had the misfortune of being owned by me his jumping experiences have also been very limited. Fortunately Bob has taken to jumping very easily and seems to have some natural aptitude for it making up for my complete lack of talent in the discipline!!
So having been accepted onto the challenge late last year, jumping lessons started in earnest in December and continued as often as I could manage. I joined VVRC at the beginning of the year and having gone to a Wobbleberry XC training session at Kelsall and then the BRC grassroots XC training at Somerford, I began to go to some VVRC clinics. First we went to an all day clinic with Alison Lewis in Meifod in April which was fantastic because we were able to do dressage, SJ and XC on grass all on the same day. Then I took up the offer to train with Janet Green and those hoping to compete at Area horse trials over the Llanymynech BE course at the end of May. I think this was the turning point for me as by this point I felt able to jump all the 80 fences.
Having had a couple of practice runs in June and July at Area horse trials and then Radfords compact eventing, I entered the BE80 at Llanymynech at the end of August. I can’t really describe how nervous I felt in the run up to this. The SJ particularly bothered me – the thought of going into that ring! I hardly slept the night before but the day started well and Bob warmed up lovely for the dressage. The test itself was OK and we got 31.8. Then onto the SJ. I didn’t spend long warming up as it only serves to make me more nervous and tires Bob so once I was happy that he was jumping cleanly we went in. I couldn’t believe we had a lovely clear round, even over all those really wide oxers that I’d had nightmares about the night before!! I then made the fatal mistake of thinking we were home and dry as Bob had been so reliable XC. Just goes to show we must never take anything for granted with horses . We had a silly spook at fence 2 on the XC and I fell off!! No harm done so I got back on and flew the rest of the course clear. Next time I will remember to keep my leg on!!
I’m thrilled to have been part of this challenge, I’ve really enjoyed the year and with the help and support of so many people Bob and I have raised nearly £700 for Hannah’s charity. I attended a presentation at Blenheim Horse Trials in September for Wobbleberries that have completed and was overwhelmed by what the challenge has done for people individually and collectively. Apparently the fund raising total is currently at nearly £220K.
Wobbleberry HQ will shortly be taking registrations for 2018 if you’re interested, I can wholeheartedly recommend it!