Para rider tackles first BE event for Wobbleberries

  • A para rider whose medical armband “reads like a textbook” has completed her first British Eventing (BE) competition in aid of Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony.

    Cornwall-based Claire Sexton was seriously injured in a cycling accident 20 years ago, breaking her back, fracturing her skull and suffering brain damage, as well as other injuries.

    She was in hospital for five months, underwent numerous operations and had to learn to walk and talk again.

    Claire returned to the saddle 11 years later and has since been graded as a para rider. She competes in grade four dressage and grade two showjumping.

    Always looking for the next challenge, earlier this year Claire decided she was ready to take on her first affiliated horse trials.

    She believes she is one of the first para riders to take part in a BE event.

    “It was not so much about winning as getting round all three phases safely, to open up another area for paras,” 52-year-old Claire told H&H.

    “My main challenge was remembering the dressage test and courses, as my memory is a bit impaired.

    “Sometimes I have double vision too — my medical armband reads like a medical textbook!”

    Claire entered the BE80 at Launceston and asked the Wobbleberries if she could take part as an honourary member.

    The charitable group are made up of novice or nervous riders tackling BE events for the first time, while raising funds for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony.

    “Although the official deadline has passed, I asked if I could join the Wobbleberry challenge,” said Claire.

    “They said they’d be delighted to have me as an honorary Wobbleberry, although they said I sounded the opposite of wobbly!”

    Claire has so far raised more than £680 for the charity founded by the late Hannah Francis.

    Claire and her 16-year-old mare Jem enjoyed their BE experience on Sunday (23 July), with a clear showjumping and an unfortunate couple of stops across country.

    “The courses were great and I had good support from my trainer Elissa Hebborn-Jones and my husband Andy,” she said.

    Continued below…

    “I’ve been riding Jem since she was eight. She loves her jumping, and gets quite excitable waiting in the collecting ring.

    “I can’t let myself be nervous when I’m riding, because Jem is so tuned in to me that she just won’t jump if she thinks I’m not happy.

    “My friends who ride use the words ‘amazing’ and ‘inspiring’ to describe my efforts, but I suspect that they’re being very kind.”

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