‘An inspiration to us all’: flood of tributes for event rider Hannah Francis

  • Thousands of tributes have been paid to teenage event rider Hannah Francis, who died yesterday (1 August).

    Top riders and amateurs alike have taken to social media to honour to the teenager who was diagnosed with bone cancer in May last year.

    “We are so very sad to hear of the death of Hannah Francis, she was an incredibly brave and inspirational young woman,” said William Fox-Pitt.

    “She has left an amazing legacy for us all to support with Willberry Wonder Pony.”Hannah Francis

    Dressage star Charlotte Dujardin said: “Hannah was brave and courageous and touched the lives of so many and this will be remembered by everyone.

    “I send my condolences and love to all of her family and friends and I will leave for Rio with her in my thoughts today and always.”

    H&H blogger and para dressage rider Suzanna Hext paid tribute to Hannah.

    “The most kind, generous, determined, and brave young lady, who never asked for anything in return,” she said.

    “Your smiley face is going to live on in my memories and so many others. You’ve touched so many hearts, and I know a lot of people will have learnt a huge amount from your zest for life.

    “The legacy you have left behind is mammoth. You will be remembered for your incredible character and determination to one day kick cancers butt.”Hannah Francis

    Equestrian photographer Jon Stroud also paid his respects to Hannah.

    “We’ve known that this day would come but it’s still a shock to the system when you get the call,” he said.

    “Hannah had the most incredible effect on everybody that she met. One moment she would have you in tears, the next it would be side-splitting laughter.

    “Just knowing her and watching her fight and determination put so many aspects of life into perspective. Hannah was all about other people. Making others happy made her happy. And that will be her legacy.

    “Willberry Wonder Pony will continue to do good work for those in need — there’s an army of friends and supporters to ensure that happens. Thank you Hannah for just being you.”

    Yesterday (1 August), Carl Hester said: “So sad to hear that Hannah Francis, an inspiration to us all, passed away today.

    “I am sure that she and Willberry Wonder Pony are having a good gallop up above.”

    Burghley Horse Trials was among the many organisations who spoke about the inspirational teenager.

    “What an wonderful legacy in Willberry Wonder Pony she has left behind,” said a Burghley spokesman.

    “Our thoughts are with her family and close friends at this terribly sad time.”

    Willberry Wonder Ponyhannah francis 1

    Since her osteosarcoma diagnosis on 1 May last year, 18-year-old Hannah wrote a blog of her experiences from the point of view of her cuddly toy, Willberry. She also raised significant funds for various charities.

    In May, Hannah announced that Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony had been approved as a registered charity.

    All funds raised will go towards bone cancer research and granting horsey wishes to those with serious illnesses.

    Hannah continued to ride throughout her illness, performing the CCI2* guinea pig dressage test at Tattersalls in June (pictured top), while she continued with her chemotherapy.

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    Hannah raised more than £115,000 through fundraising events and Willberry merchandise.

    “Thanks to all the people so desperate to make little old me and Willberry happy, I’ve met my absolute idols and heroes,” Hannah said in May.

    “I’ve ridden horses who’s talent is out of this world and genuinely tried their hardest to look after me as if they knew just how weak and fragile I now am. I’ve had so many wonderful adventures, small and large, with my wonder pony, my family and my friends that lots of people must only be able to dream of.”

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