Road to Olympia: inspirational rider beats breast cancer while horse overcomes tendon injury

  • While the trials and tribulations of equestrian sport are come in different forms for everyone, one rider and her mare have overcome more than most en route to landing their first ever ticket to the Olympia, the London International Horse Show in December.

    Kate Hayward and her Irish Sports Horse Nobelle Clover (Rosa) are through to the SSADL veteran finals after qualifying at Berkshire county show.

    “I bought a Rosa as a five-year-old in 2004,” said Kate, who works as an area sales manager for Saracen Horse Feeds. “Eventing was my passion and I wanted to aim her at one-star level but Rosa wasn’t keen on cross-country so it completely blew my plans out of the water.

    “After several years of feeling like we were getting nowhere, someone suggested we try doing some working hunter with her. We were fortunate enough to go to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in the SEIB Search For A Star finals in 2010, where we finished third, and to the Royal International Horse Show the following year.”

    “Despite the success in the show ring, eventing still called to me and we gave it another shot. Rosa took it it like a duck to water this time and we achieved several placings competing in British Eventing competitions and even qualified for Mitsubishi Motors Cup Regional Finals in 2016.”

    That year, Kate’s world was imploded when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 32-years-old.

    She continued: “All of my dreams of competing at Badminton were shattered. Rosa was my pillar of strength and sanity throughout treatment and I rode as much as I could between chemotherapy sessions. She looked after me like she knew I was so poorly. Once treatment finished in February 2017 I was keen to return to eventing as soon as possible and in the April we were back out again. We won our first BE90 back with a dressage score of 28.8 and double clear. I cannot describe how ecstatic I was in that moment but my world crumpled once more as Rosa was unable to weight bare on her hind leg whilst loading on the lorry.”

    Rosa was diagnosed with a massive strain on in her superficial digital flexor tendon and Kate was forced to come to terms with the fact that she might not be able to be ridden again.

    “The amazing JP at Sacrsdale Equine, Derby, was incredible throughout her treatment and after nine months of box rest my girl was sound again and could be ridden. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a tear the first time I was back on her.

    “After going through all of this I decided to set about ‘making memories’ with the theory that you never know what’s around the corner. With this in mind I entered the now 19-year-old Rosa for the SSADL class at Royal Windsor in order to get ‘that’ river shot. After Windsor we decided to make the most of our membership and enter some more second round qualifiers. We won our second rounds at Royal Cheshire and North of England and finished third in the Olympia championship on both occasions.

    “We then travelled to Berkshire County where we won, took the championships as well as the coveted Olympia ticket. It felt like a fairy tale, my best friend and I doing something we love despite everything we’ve been through. It’s needless to say getting to Olympia means the world to me.”

    Photo by Fotos4Events.

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