‘I had this mad idea’: rider makes winning comeback after cancer surgery

  • A dressage rider has made a successful – albeit early – return to competition after surgery. Riding Dutch driving horse Albertho B, Katharine Lewis took plus-70% advanced medium and prix st georges (PSG) wins last week (pictured earlier this year).

    I had this mad idea of doing a PSG without any training, so made a late entry at West Wilts EC,” says Katharine, who recently underwent leg surgery after a cancer diagnosis. “I’d kept the horses ticking over during my time off by lungeing them. This was only Bert’s second attempt at the level, but he has a lot of energy and a great work ethic – I’m so proud of him.

    “I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma which meant I had to have a wide local excision from my outer thigh and a lymph node biopsy from my groin to find out if had spread,” she added. “Happily, it hadn’t. I’m healing well but have been left with a seroma [a pocket of fluid].”

    “Albertho was originally used in Holland for show driving in harness, before he was brought to the UK as part of a four-in-hand coaching team,” continues Katharine, who rides the 14-year-old gelding for Di Hayes and trains with Nicky Barrett and Roland Tong.

    “Di then brought him to do horse driving trials and I would ride him once a week to start with. He didn’t really start under saddle until he was nine and only properly stopped carriage driving two years ago.

    “Although he has lots of natural movement he tended to bring his neck high, so it has been a case of encouraging him to relax and use his back. He is now much more confident about what he is doing and is more successful the higher he moves up the levels.”

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    Katharine recently took Bert and her Friesian for her first lesson with Charlotte Dujardin.

    “It was fantastic,” she says. “Charlotte was impressed with how much Bert had learnt and said she felt he could go to grand prix. I came away with a lot of homework and feeling very positive about the next step.”

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