Following on from yesterday’s inspiring stories from “middle-aged wimpy riders” taking part in the Wobbleberries Challenge to raise funds for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, we meet three more brave Wobbleberries who have successfully fulfilled their ambition to compete in an affiliated British Eventing competition.
Helen Kinsella, 56
Helen has completed the challenge on her 17-year-old Irish Thoroughbred bay mare Farmers Hill Aristokat, fondly known as Kat, who Helen has owned for nine years. Helen took on the Wobbleberries Challenge after her son Antony passed away in July 2013 to Ewnes Sarcoma, a cancer similar to Hannah’s.
“Previously I had jumped a little, but when my son Ant became ill I stopped jumping – I couldn’t concentrate and focus,” explains Helen. “Ant was 22 when he was diagnosed in April 2012 and we spent the whole of that year going back and forwards to the University College Hospital in London, where he had aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“The one thing that kept me going was Kat. I could go down the stables and I could cry if I wanted to, I could talk to myself if I wanted to, or not say anything if I wanted to. I found myself focusing more and more on my horse. I started taking lessons from my jumping instructor Jo Foley who said, ‘Why are you not doing the Wobbleberries Challenge?’
“The hardest thing was probably fitting in the training, but I’m very determined. I do find myself thinking about Ant a lot with it – I feel like I’m doing it for Antony as well as Hannah. I’ve named my Berry pony Antberry!
“My biggest highlight was completing my challenge at Poplar Park on 20 May 2017. The commentator at the start had mentioned Antony and I got a bit emotional just before I went cross-country. Coming through the finish line I could hear a couple shouting who I hadn’t met and I found out later it was Wobbleberries founder Sally Barr and her husband cheering me on. We soared it and actually came 17th! I have now entered Little Downham (3) and next year we are aiming for BE90 as long as Kat and I are fit enough – we’ve got the bug.
“One of the best things about the Wobbleberries is the togetherness. You don’t know these people apart from their names on the Wobbleberries Facebook regional pages and yet you feel like you know them!”
Sue Plummer, 76
Sue is the oldest known member of the Wobbleberries Challenge. Sally completed the challenge with her 10-year-old 15.2hh chestnut half-bred Welsh Section D Springtime Sun, known as Nia, who Sue has owned for three years.
“I previously had a horse of a lifetime, who I bought back in 1986 and owned for 26 years before he was put to sleep at 31 years old in 2012. I bought Nia when she was seven years old as a horse that needed a hacking home following suspensory ligament problems. She stayed sound so we did a bit of dressage and riding club, but I hadn’t jumped competitively in a hell of a long time – I think last jumped in 2001!
“In 2016 the local hunt organised a training day with dressage, showjumping and cross-country so I tried it and I enjoyed it, though in the photographs I had an expression of sheer terror on my face. I continued to try some riding club mini events and my riding club friends said I ought to do the Wobbleberries Challenge and I said, ‘That’s 80cm – I don’t do that height!’ So they provoked me into it. It was a double-barrelled challenge, it was a challenge for me and it was for such a worthwhile cause. There was a means to it!
“Before any competition the nerves are always slightly there, I think ahead about them. I completed my BE80(T) challenge at Launceston 23 July 2017 and came 20th out of 40. The cross-country was my highlight, I went at a speed I was comfortable with, which wasn’t flat out or I might have fallen flat out! I was thrilled to have completed and at the same time know I had raised money for the charity. I have reached £1,100 and I’ve had incredible support from friends, I think because they know my age and they admired what I did and in aid of what I was doing it for!”
Sally Hall, 29
Sally completed the challenge on her 14-year-old 14.2hh piebald cob Basil VI, who she has owned for seven years.
“I started doing a couple of unaffiliated events about a year before I signed up to the challenge, but without any success. We kept getting eliminated, we just weren’t very committed to it. Being a 14.2hh cob he was the often the smallest and hairiest in the class!
“I signed up to the challenge for two reasons. Firstly, I’m a children’s doctor and at the time of the challenge being advertised I was working in children’s intensive care in Leeds Hospital. One of the patients I looked after was a little boy with leukaemia, who was having a really tough time and so were his parents. It really just highlighted the problems he was going through and it was a challenge for him. That brought home the charity side of it at the time.
“Secondly, I have a friend I’ve always been riding with and over the past couple of years she has been doing eventing at Burghley and Bramham. We used to ride ponies together and I looked at her doing these four-star events and thinking if she can do that then why can’t I! I thought I’d give 80cm a go and it turned out be harder than it looked.
“Confidence and nerves were a challenge, making little jumps seem like big jumps! I was nervous for both me and Basil, although he is a lot fitter than he ever has been. My highlight was when we completed our BE80(T) Shelford Manor on 29 May 2017, jumping the last jump and just knowing that we had done it! We’ve done a few more events since then just because we then knew we could. We’ve even entered our first BE90 at Norton Disney next month.”
If these stories have inspired you, search Facebook for Wobbleberries Challenge to find out more…