Hannah Francis’ legacy has helped an inspirational rider overcome huge challenges to achieve her goal of taking part in a British Eventing competition.
Clare Reeves had had a 20-year gap from horses when she bought her 14.2hh mare, Frankie, in March 2017 — and she believes the mare saved her life.
“I fell in love with her,” Clare told H&H. “From day one she would nuzzle my shoulder — of course they do it when they are looking for treats — but this was always in the same place.”
Clare added one day her shoulder was particularly sore after Frankie’s nudges and she found a lump, which she thought was related to the knock she had taken from the mare, but booked an appointment with her GP to have it checked out.
Her GP referred her to the breast clinic, where a biopsy revealed she had triple negative breast cancer.
“If it wasn’t for Frankie, I would not have found the lump and the cancer would not have been detected early enough — my prognosis would have been very different,” she said, adding the mare has not been interested in her shoulder since the tumour was removed
“I’m very lucky she drew my attention to it, I owe her my life.”
After surgery to remove the lump, Clare went through seven months of chemotherapy. During her treatment she decided she wanted a challenge, so signed up to join the Wobbleberries.
“It had to be something with Frankie because we have such a bond and started this journey together,” she added.
Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity granted Clare a wish of 10 lessons with eventer James McIlough, plus a trip to Nick Skelton’s yard.
“He was brilliant and we trained all the way through my chemo, even when I was throwing up over Frankie’s shoulder and had to have someone help me tack up,” she said.
In January 2018, Clare visited Nick’s yard, which she said gave her the extra boost to complete her challenge.
“I never thought I would have the chance to meet anybody like him,” she said. “The riders in his arena were jumping fences that were absolutely huge — he showed me around the yard and just being there, soaking up the atmosphere, meant I came back with this newfound confidence and I felt that I really needed to get a grip over 60cm!”
Clare discovered she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene and opted for a double mastectomy and hysterectomy to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
That summer, Clare and Frankie undertook their first unaffiliated one-day-events before heading to Solihull BE80(T)in October, where they completed.
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Clare also raised close to £15,000 in the process, which she split between Willberry and Breast Cancer Care.
“My horse saved my life and the Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity saved my sanity,”she said.
Clare is currently cancer-free and continuing to enjoy riding and competing Frankie.
Willberry’s Wishes grants horsey wishes to seriously ill people of all ages, or an immediate family member of someone suffering from a terminal condition and is welcoming applications.
For more information, visit: www.willberrywonderpony.org/pages/willberrys-wishes
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