‘She’d always said it was one of the best days of her life’: groom to take on charity race in memory of late mother

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  • A groom who lost her mother will be riding in her memory as she follows in her footsteps by taking part in a charity race.

    Kerry Humphries, 30, who works for trainer Roger Varian, is one of 12 amateur riders who have signed up to take part in the Ernest Cooper Macmillan “Ride of their Lives” race at York on 11 June.

    Her late mother, Leanne, rode in the race in 2015, in memory of her sister, and had always encouraged Kerry to apply. In 2021, with no warning of what was to come, Leanne took her own life.

    Kerry has not spoken much publicly about her mother’s death, but hopes in by doing so, she will help tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

    “Losing my mum last year was one of the main reasons I applied for the race, because she had always said it was one of the best days of her life,” said Kerry.

    “She always felt that she’d missed out by not applying to racing school as a young woman, so riding at York, and for a charity that meant a lot to her, was a dream come true.

    “She’d lost her sister Paula to ovarian cancer years before, and her nan had been cared for by Macmillan nurses so she knew what a lifeline Macmillan could be for anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis. I want to do it for Mum, as a way of honouring her memory, and for Macmillan and the great work they do.”

    Kerry added that she was “so proud” of her mum for taking part in the 2015 race.

    “As someone who was in remission from [autoimmune condition] lupus it was a little bit harder to get fitter, but watching her in the Macmillan race I was so proud of how well she rode, how she trained into it and all the fundraising she did,” she said.

    “She was so proud; we’d be on a plane or a train and me, my dad and my brother would place bets on how long it would take her to tell someone about the race. She would even stop and tell the dustbin men, it was one of her proudest achievements.”

    Horses have always been a part of Kerry’s life, a love she inherited from her mother.

    “Mum was born in Ellesmere port and moved around quite a lot when she was a youngster, also living in York and Northampton at points. She worked as a hairdresser for a bit and then she met my dad and had me when she was 17, so caring for us took up most of her life,” said Kerry.

    “She had my brother a few years later. She had always had a love of horses and it was only when she was an adult and more financially stable that she bought her own horse – Ruby – who we had with us for about 21 years. She’s the horse I grew up with. Mum used to love going to the races and getting dressed up, whether Dad had a runner or not.

    “Anyone who met her could see what a bubbly character she was. She would tell everyone she met her life story and would just chat away. She was also a proper party animal and I was always up for going out on the town with her. Even my friends used to invite her down for a dance.”

    She added that Leanne was “always the first one on the dance floor” and loved The Time Warp.

    “She always asked for it to be played at parties. We couldn’t decide which song to play last at her funeral and ended up playing The Time Warp because it’s just Mum,” said Kerry.

    The family chose to play the commentary from Leanne’s Macmillan race instead of a second song at her funeral, because of how much the day meant to her.

    “Everyone was so shocked when they heard [how Leanne had died] because every time they met Mum she was so happy and chatty and bubbly,” she said.

    “It was heartbreaking when it happened, you feel like it’s not real. Things like this happen to other families, not your family and still to this day I feel like it’s not real. I was down south when I got the news and my dad and brother were up north, so I had to be with them, even if the Covid rules meant you weren’t meant to mix households.

    “That drive back to Doncaster was the worst drive ever. My poor dad was trying to be strong, but he’d break down crying and kept trying not to do it in front of us.

    “It’s been over a year since she died and the three of us are sticking together, making sure we talk and communicate with each other properly. It’s always going to be hard though, sometimes a certain song or picture can bring back a memory and that makes me feel a bit emotional.”

    Kerry spoke at the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Awards in January of how her own horse, One Pekan, has helped her deal with her grief. The 12-year-old former Flat racer, who Kerry cared for while he was in training with her boss, was among the three finalists in the RoR personality of the year award.

    She is encouraging anyone struggling to “talk to someone”.

    “No matter what, there will always be people who will listen to you and there will always be people who can help you,” she said. “You are loved and cared about more than you realise and no matter how you’re feeling now, you could be in a totally different place four, six, eight months down the line. I want people to know that it’s okay not to be okay and that there’s help out there.”

    For more information and to support Kerry, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kerry-Humphries13

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