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Dad who bought first horse in his 40s aims to make his mark for equestrian charities

A novice horse owner is already making an impact on the equestrian world by raising money for charities impacted by Covid-19.

Stewart Turner has been documenting his riding experiences on Instagram, where he has already amassed more than 13,700 followers, and he is hoping his supporters will now sponsor him to raise funds for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Ebony Horse Club.

Stewart, who is in his mid-40s, was inspired to take up riding after buying a pony for his three daughters, Madeleine, Abigail and Beatrice, who are are eight, 12 and 14.

He had only ridden a handful of times as a child but went straight in at the deep end and bought 17.3hh, eight-year-old Irish sport horse Bilbo last April.

“My sister took me for lessons when I was eight and I rode again for a while when I was 12 — I had memories of being pretty amazing at it but it turned out when I got on Bilbo that I could’t stop him!” Stewart told H&H.

After he bought “stocky” cob Ralph for his children, he initially “went and bought a hat and boots” with the idea that he might ride him occasionally himself but soon expanded his ambitions.

“I kept looking at adverts and I saw Bilbo for sale only about an hour or so away, so I said to my wife, who rides, that we should go and look at him. She thought I was slightly mad but we went over to see him — he was lovely natured and she rode him and was very pleased, so we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss,” he said.

The pair have had a few teething problems but have been making steady progress, and made good use of the extra time during lockdown to have more lessons.

“He was massively spooky for a while and he bucked me off in a field and I broke a rib — at that point my wife said ‘he might be too much for you’ but I like to think in the long term!” Stewart said.

Among Stewart and Bilbo’s high-profile Instagram followers are Carl Hester, as well as some top equestrian brands, and when he had the idea to raise money for some charities, he appealed to them for prizes.

Stewart is planning to cycle from dawn to dusk on the 12 September, and anyone who donates more than £5 can be in with the chance of winning one of them — they include a yard tour with Carl, a pair of Skyline breeches or a £50 voucher from Aztec Diamond Equestrian and a Protechmasta fly veil and bandage set worth £80 from Harry Hall.

“I am quite involved with charities as I’m a trustee for my local adults’ and children’s hospice, so I see first-hand how much they’re all struggling with loss of income by events being cancelled due to Covid,” he said.

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“With my new love of horses, and existing love of charities, I decided to come up with my own fundraiser. I picked the RDA because every time I get another thousand followers, I ask the 1,000th person to pick a charity and then I make a £50 donation to it, and the RDA has come up a lot.

“Ebony Horse Club is also based near where I work in London and I have been to see what they do — it’s a great charity and we need to do more to encourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds into equestrianism.”

Stewart said he had spoken to the RDA about his plans and had learned that only 50 of their nearly 500 centres are currently able to open because of Coronavirus.

“I am hoping to find which ones I can visit and include some of them on my ride,” he said.

To support Stewart and find more information, follow his Instagram account @man.on.horse.

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