‘We’re blown away’: Equestrians pull together to raise £40k for paralysed rider

  • An online auction to raise funds for injured showing and hunting enthusiast Rob Walker has exceeded all expectations, raising £40,100 – more than four times the hoped-for amount.

    More than 100 lots, ranging from lessons with top producers and hunting in Ireland to luxury hampers and clothing – and including a personalised mock-up of an H&H front cover which realised £350 – were auctioned on a dedicated Facebook page over a 10-day period.

    Essex-based Rob was paralysed in a hunting fall in January, and money is urgently needed in order for him to receive specialised treatment at the Injured Jockeys Fund’s rehabilitation centre, Oaksey House. It soon became clear the auction would achieve this and more, and it is hoped the extra funds will also provide the specialist items and facilities Rob will need on returning home.

    The idea was the brainchild of showing stalwart Vicki Keen.  “I wanted to help in some way and having previously been involved in organising successful charity auctions, this seemed a good way to pull together the showing and hunting communities to support Rob,” said Vicki, who then co-opted PR specialist – and showing competitor – Cerys Ford to assist her. “It was heartwarming to see how the horse world came together,” added Vicki.

    “We realised there was a lot of support for the idea, which quickly snowballed into quite a large project,” added Cerys, who runs a communications business. “With so many lots, and the potential to raise serious money, we knew we needed a more strategic approach so we set up a dedicated Facebook page with a full catalogue for the auction.

    “We couldn’t be more delighted with the result.” 

    Ian and Lucy Cameron’s offer of a personal visit to Juddmonte Stud to meet the famous Frankel and Kingman – including four tickets to go racing at Newmarket – was the top lot, raising £2,500 and knocked down to Simone Cuddy. Three lessons with showing producer Allister Hood realised £1,800, as did an exclusive European skiing trip, snapped up by Cerys herself.

    Other popular lots included Lucy Killingbeck and Simon Somers’ offer of a Cordon Bleu dinner, including butler service, which went to Lucy Carvall for £800. Two tickets to the ICC Champions’ one-day cricket final, offered by Eamon and Rachel McCourt and including a champagne picnic hamper, made the same amount; Samantha Wilson was the lucky bidder.

    Rob was allowed out of Stanmore hospital for the day to attend Royal Windsor Horse Show last week, and once he had been spotted in his wheelchair, his friends competing in the ring paid a moving tribute by doffing their caps as they rode past him.

    “There are no words to do justice to the people who not only have made this auction happen, but have lifted Rob’s spirits and taken away a huge amount of pressure from our family,” said his fiancée Olivia Greig. “The auction itself, and the messages and donations from Rob’s friends far and wide – as well as people he and I have never met – have just blown both of us away.

    “All these things gave Rob the boost he needed to enable me to take him to Windsor – a step I didn’t think he would be able to cope with at such an early stage of this journey.”

    “I’m completely overwhelmed by the response from so many wonderful people,” added Rob. “When the auction was mentioned to me, I never dreamed it would have raised so much.

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