Grandfather who learned to ride in September to make BE debut

  • A grandfather who started riding at the age of 60 last September is aiming to complete his first British Eventing competition in a fortnight’s time as part of the Wobbleberry challenge.

    Northamptonshire-based Tony York is one of hundreds of riders who have vowed to take part in a BE80 for the first time in 2017, to raise money for the Willberry Wonder Pony charity.

    Daughter Jo York told H&H Tony had “always been threatening” to ride.

    “We’ve been riding forever and he’s always driven the lorry and walked courses with us,” she said. “He always used to have the ‘I could do it if you let me’ attitude.

    “Then he said he’d do it before he turned 60, which was September, and the Wobbleberry challenge was announced in August. So we said: ‘Go on then, if you think it’s that easy!’”

    Jo lent Tony her 18-year-old former intermediate eventer Voyager (“Ted”) and once he had mastered the basics on a pony borrowed from a riding school, he moved on to hirelings owned by another friend of the family.

    He then moved on to Ted, who Jo has owned for 16 years, and whom Tony helped her back, and has made good progress. Their BE80(T) class takes place at Little Downham on 22 July.

    “Cross-country is fine as Ted’s a cross-country machine,” said Jo. “Plus he’s an intermediate horse going round an 80 so as long as he keeps his speed up, he’ll be fine.

    “It’s just the showjumping; I don’t know if other people find this but it’s not like cross-country where you’ve got so much time to get organised between fences.

    “At least at Little Downham, the showjumping’s in a big field so there will be more time than on a surface; he had a fall a few weeks ago and said ‘Ted’s too fast’ and I said ‘No, your brain’s too slow.’ But the first showjumping he did, he won!”

    Jo says her father played rugby, “so falling off doesn’t really bother him”, but that having to wear a tie for the dressage has proved troublesome.

    “We didn’t tell him that at the start; he hasn’t worn a tie since he broke his neck playing rugby 30 years ago and we genuinely thought it’d be a deal-breaker,” she said.

    “He only found out when he did his first dressage test and he started gagging!”

    But obstacles aside, Jo is looking forward to Tony and Ted’s event, which has so far raised nearly £1,000 for the charity.

    “On Tuesday, I was stressed as he hadn’t even raised 50% of his fundraising target,” she said. “I shared it on Facebook and now it’s over 100% which is absolutely amazing, there are some really kind people.

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    “You go through the winter and think no-one realises what you put in, then everyone rallies together, which is fab; you keep going and then there are moments like when he won the showjumping.

    “He says he’s going to buy his own horse when he retires next year, and share it with my daughter!”

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