Eventer Ben Hobday will be riding in a new direction at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials this week (8-11 September), as he takes part in a side-saddle demo in aid of two cancer charities.
Ben will have a lesson on former intermediate eventer Ashton Flight, who was crowned national side-saddle reserve champion with his owner Lauren Allin at Addington last month.
“We’re going to teach Ben a little bit of elegance and history and hope we can get him walking, trotting and cantering on both reins. He may even jump a little fence — Polly Stockton did last time so we’ll see how it goes.” said international side-saddle judge and trainer Ginny Oakley Pope, who will be training Ben.
“It’s a little tongue-in-cheek with the gents although we do have gentlemen side-saddle riders who show. We won’t make him dress up though — he’ll be in civvies!” she said.
Side-saddle demonstrations will be given twice a day throughout Blenheim, with Ben scheduled to appear some time on Thursday (September 8), depending on his dressage time.
The Side Saddle Association has been promoting the discipline at the event for nine years, with a side-saddle rider traditionally opening Blenheim’s high jump contest — which will be supporting the late Hannah Francis’s charity Willberry Wonder Pony this year.
Ben’s side-saddle experience will also raise funds for Willberry Wonder Pony — of which he is a patron — as well as backing blood cancer charity Bright Red.
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Ben has been supporting the organisation since he was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in June 2015.
Ginny said that the Northampton branch of Barclays is backing the fundraising efforts, which will involve bucket collections and wristband sales.
“They’ve been brilliant — we’re hoping it will raise a lot of money,” she added.
This year’s side-saddle display team will once again include ex-eventer French Connection, who competed at Blenheim in 2011 with Bill Levett.
He’s now owned by the Quorn’s Emma Brown, who has previously used the gelding to open the high jump contest.
“Side-saddle a wonderful third or fourth career for some horses,” added Ginny. “We go to Blenheim to promote it and show that it’s accessible to everybody.”