Rider tackles first side-saddle race in memory of carriage driver killed in crash

  • An owner competing in her first side-saddle race in memory of a friend who died in a carriage driving accident is raising funds for a road safety charity.

    Kate Hardt, from Staffordshire, is riding in the ‘side-saddle dash’ at the North Staffordshire Hunt point-to-point at Sandon Estate on 20 April in memory of Val Gilbert who died on 5 August 2018.

    Val Gilbert

    Kate told H&H she and husband, Thomas, would usually attend the point-to-point with Val and Val’s husband, Paul.

    “I knew Val for about 26 years. We would meet up with Val and Paul every year at the point-to-point and have a really good time. Val was the life and soul of the party – she was always laughing and smiling. She was one of those very bright people you don’t come across often. Together Val and Paul ran a livery yard, which Paul still runs now, and Val was absolutely brilliant with people.

    “When I heard about the race about a month ago I said ‘I’m in’ – Val would have loved it. It’s a flat race over 7f and Paul is going to come along. I’ve never raced before but I’ve taken part in hunter trials side-saddle and some hunting.”

    Following Kate posting on Facebook she was riding in memory of Val, the class sponsor Carpet Gallop contacted her.

    “I received a call from the owner, Mark Gilbert, who said he will donate a trophy in Val’s name so the side-saddle dash can run every year as a memorial race. When I told Paul he was absolutely over the moon,” said Kate.

    Kate will be riding her husband’s 18-year-old gelding, Oakie, who she said is “fast but not racehorse-fast”.

    “Oakie is about three quarters thoroughbred. He’s not young, but he’s fit and active. He’s such a trier and always puts a smile on your face – he’s a star,” she said.

    “I’m not deluded that I’m going to win. I just want to go and have fun, do the best I can and raise money for the road safety charity, Brake.”

    Kate chose to raise funds for Brake after attending road deaths during her career as a police officer.

    “It’s a charity people don’t always know of and it’s such a shame. When I was a road bobby on the motorway, I would attend serious accidents and fatalities, sometimes it could be every month,” said Kate.

    “Brake promote road safety awareness and help people dealing with road deaths. Often people hear road safety and switch off because if it’s never affected them they don’t really think about it, or don’t think it’s particularly interesting.

    “Road death is sudden and people don’t have time to prepare, it hits them and their life is changed and will never be the same again. It’s something we saw time and time again in the police – it’s literally game over in a split second.”

    Kate hopes to raise £1,000 for the charity and raise awareness of its work.

    “I’ve never done something like this before so I wanted it to be a realistic target – any little bit is going to help,” said Kate.

    “If someone reads about Brake now, and god forbid needs them in years to come, then at least they’ve heard about them and can reach out.”

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