A naked vet and a former top showing rider were among those to venture into icy waters off the Isle of Wight in a chilly New Year’s Day fundraiser.

Karen Ledger, whose showing career at top level has encompassed hunters, working hunters, riding horses, cobs and more recently coloureds, organised the charity swim from Freshwater Bay on the island.

There were 18 brave swimmers tackling the icy water this year — including the naked trio of an equine vet, his son and a local bus driver, a paramedic in a mankini, a topless lady and various other equestrian enthusiasts. Karen herself wore a fetching elf outfit.

“Thankfully the sea was calmer than it was last year — when we posted footage of people braving 10-foot waves on Facebook, our total was boosted to over £2,000 — but we still raised more than expected this year,” said Karen, who started the tradition four years ago, when just three people took to the water. “It still felt like the Antarctic this time though — the air temperature was about 2C but I managed to swim for about five minutes, until I went numb!”

The swimmers’ efforts raised more than £1,400 for her charity, All Because Of Freda (ABOF), with help from several other equestrian enthusiasts.

The charity was originally set up to help with the costs of rescue, treatment, care and re-homing of stray and abused dogs from Cyprus, and was founded by Karen five years ago when she adopted a pointer bitch called Freda who, typically, had been used as a hunting dog and then abandoned to starve.

Since then, Karen has raised more than £100,000 through activities such as online auctions, charity dog and horse shows and sponsored dressage, as well as the 2018 release of a book — Florence, dog detective: The Case of the Purple Poodle — written by H&H contributor Carolyn Henderson. It has now sold more than 250 copies. All production costs were fully sponsored, and sale proceeds go directly to ABOF.

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The charity has now helped more than 650 dogs in several Continental countries where cruelty and abuse are rampant.

“Some of the worst offenders are even British people who just dump their dogs when they return to the UK,” added Karen.

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