Inspiring young eventer wins 2019 Hannah Francis Award

  • A young rider who battled mental and physical challenges to support others has won the 2019 Hannah Francis Award.

    Claire Drey-Brown, who has competed up to intermediate level, carried on eventing throughout a hellish few years and is now supporting other teenagers to follow their equestrian dreams.

    “I was firstly shocked and then really overwhelmed,” Claire, 21, told H&H. “The award is going to be presented at Kitty King’s yard and we are meeting Hannah’s parents as well as the person who created the award, I think it is going to be very emotional.

    “Hannah was completely inspiring and taught everyone that no matter what your position is, you can always help other people.”

    Claire’s brother, Jamie, had cancer at the same time as Hannah. She was very involved in supporting him, donated her bone marrow and along with her eventing friends raised £24,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust by doing the #eventersjump4cancer charity skydive. Sadly James died in April 2016.

    “I followed Hannah’s story right from the beginning — my brother was really closed about [what he was going through] and it was helpful for me to see how he may have been feeling at times,” added Claire.

    Image by EquusPhoto

    After the loss of her brother, Claire was diagnosed with depression and in December 2017 she shattered her ankle in a fall, for which she has had numerous operations and is still battling with pain and restricted movement.

    Despite all this, Claire continued to event and in 2018 set up an academy, the CDB Eventing Squad, for teenage riders who want support or advice.

    “It has been going really well — because I have had some time off riding over the winter due to my latest ankle operation it has given me time to really sit down and mentor them,” she said, adding it has also helped her to be “doing something constructive” while out of the saddle.

    The youngsters come for training once a month and Claire continues to support them outside these sessions as well.

    She also plans to set up an adult squad and is back riding, preparing for the eventing season.

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    A spokesman for the charity said “each and every one” of the nominees reminded “Willberry” of the inspirational qualities of Hannah and the “pure strength and determination she showed the world”.

    “Willberry was blown away with the can-do attitude Claire showed to continue to be so successful in the sport she loves despite going through such tricky emotional and physical battles,” added the spokesman.

    “Despite these personal battles, the support Claire has shown to people surrounding her is inspiring to see.

    “One things for sure, Jamie must be looking down with a heart filled with pride.”

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