Pairs victory for friends brought together by breast cancer

  • Two friends who have supported each other through cancer teamed up to win a hotly-contested pairs arena eventing class.

    “The Pink Ladies” Clare Taylor Reeves riding Frankie and Annie Choma with Henri De Boistron beat 62 other combinations to take first place in the pairs class at LandS Eventing on 7 December.

    Clare was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2017, two years before Annie was also diagnosed with the same type of cancer.

    Clare’s mare, Frankie, would constantly nudge her shoulder in the same place and one day when it was particularly sore, she discovered a lump, which led to her diagnosis.

    She is now doing well and will be two years clear in January, so when Mary Hunt, mother of LandS founder Lloyd Hunt, heard about Annie’s diagnosis, she put the two in contact.

    “I got in touch with Annie just before her first chemo [in July] and we chatted about what to expect, what I did and the mental side of being diagnosed with something so awful,” Clare told H&H.

    “I suggested maybe we could meet up sometime with our horses and it turned out her yard is about 500m from my house!

    The pair meet up to go hacking and decided to have a go at the pairs class as a last-minute entry.

    “I said ‘let’s go and do a mini team chase, dressed in pink, and show that cancer doesn’t have to mean the end, it doesn’t have to stop you riding and you can keep going’,” she said.

    “LandS have been amazing — they have supported me through my cancer — they let us enter at the last minute as we didn’t know if Annie would be well enough, but she is just absolutely smashing it. We didn’t think we would ever win, but our horses were wonderful and when I looked back at the video it was like they have been ridden and jumped together for years.”

    Annie added the day was “amazing”.

    “Just to even get there for me was an achievement as I am still going through treatment at the moment,” she told H&H. “When we spoke about entering, I didn’t know whether I would be feeling well enough to go.”

    Annie, 29, has been sharing her story on Facebook since her diagnosis in July to let people know what she is going through and to raise awareness of breast cancer in younger people.

    “Clare messaged me to say ‘I have read your story and went through exactly the same thing two years ago’. We had the same type of treatment, same hospital and lots of other similarities,” she said.

    “To have Clare there every step of the way has really helped me hugely. She is there to say that this is ‘a blip in your life’ and she has achieved so much. To have a friend like that who has the same interests, has horses and just completely gets what I want to do and how I’m feeling — she’s been absolutely incredible and is my inspiration.”

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    Annie has also been able to keep her retrained racehorse going, with the help of friends, family and the yard.

    “I did the whole ‘am I going to be able to ride and keep him?’. I look after him myself, so I did seriously consider finding a sharer or loan home to send him away so I didn’t have that worry. In the end, if I have to have a reason to leave the house — even if it isn’t every day, or once a day or twice a day — if I can get to his stable to see him, that is an achievement.

    “Even the first week after a chemo session, which are the worst, even on those days I try to get down there because he makes me feel better. Horses are definitely my sanity. He gives me a focus and the fact I’m still able to do a bit of competing gives me something to aim for.”

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