‘It was really difficult’: watch Ben Hobday ride side-saddle at Blenheim

  • Ben Hobday managed to canter and jump side-saddle in a charity display at Blenheim, but admitted he found the new way of riding challenging.

    The popular four-star event rider took part in the display to raise funds for cancer charities Willberry Wonder Pony and Bright Red.

    Ben was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in June 2015, but announced he was in remission in November.

    International side-saddle judge and trainer Ginny Oakley Pope gave Ben a lesson on former intermediate eventer Ashton Flight, who sported a Willberry Wonder Pony quarter mark for the occasion.

    The 14.3hh coloured gelding was crowned national side-saddle reserve champion with his owner Lauren Allin at Addington last month.

    “It was really difficult, but it was great fun,” said Ben.

    “It’s a totally different kind of balance. I was trying to listen as much as I could to Ginny.

    “The horses are very well trained,” he added.

    Credit: Lisa Harber

    Credit: Lisa Harber

    Willberry Wonder Pony was launched by Hannah Francis, who passed away last month aged 18 (1 August).

    Since her osteosarcoma diagnosis in May 2015, Hannah raised significant funds for various charities.

    Her own charity was approved as a registered charity in May.

    All funds raised by Willberry Wonder Pony go towards bone cancer research and granting horsey wishes to those with serious illnesses.

    The challenge also raised funds for blood cancer charity Bright Red.

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    Side-saddle demonstrations were given twice a day throughout Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials (8-11 September), with Ben appearing on the first day.

    The Side Saddle Association has been promoting the discipline at the event for nine years, with a side-saddle rider traditionally opening Blenheim’s high jump contest — which also supported Willberry Wonder Pony this year.

    The popular high jump competition involves a ‘knockout’ style class in which there is just one fence that goes higher and higher.

    This year’s competition was jointly won by four riders — Vicky Laing, Jack Pinkney, Scarlett Ward and Gemma Tattersall — who shared the £500 prize, which was donated to Willberry Wonder Pony.

    “The total monies raised by Ginny Oakley Pope, A Bit on the Side and Ben Hobday was £1,000 – thanks are due to Northampton Branch of Barclays Bank who matched pound for pound the money collected,” said a Blenheim spokesman.

    “The money will be divided between Bright Red and Willberry Wonder Pony Charities of which Ben Hobday is patron.

    People can continue to donate to Bright Red by texting BENH34£3 to 70070 and to Willberry Wonder Pony via Just Giving.

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