Rider tackles Wobbleberry challenge ‘for Hannah’ after breast cancer diagnosis

A rider who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February completed the Wobbleberry challenge eight months later, on a horse she describes as an “absolute git”.

Claire Ryan underwent a lumpectomy, and the removal of 18 lymph nodes, as well as radiotherapy, but was competing again in unafilliated showjumping by June.

And the diagnosis was enough to prompt her to take on the challenge, of taking on a BE(80) event, which was started by a group of riders in memory of young eventer Hannah Francis, who died in 2016.

“I’d thought about it for a long time,” Claire told H&H. “I’d mainly showjumped but had never had a horse who could do all three phases.https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/wobbleberry-willberry-eventing-challenge-middle-aged-wimpy-riders-590664

“I have now but had never got round to it last year, then this year, because I had cancer myself and with what Hannah went through – although on a much bigger scale – I decided to do it.

“It was something to aim for and I thought, if Hannah can do it, so can I; she was just an inspiration.”

Claire was “impatient” to get back on board her Welsh section D gelding Neebro Jack in a Box after her treatment, so after her showjumping show on 24 June, she went on to do a mini one-day event in August.

“He did well,” she said. “That was his first ever cross-country clear, because he’s naughty, still green and very cheeky! But we came seventh.”

After a hunter trial in September, Claire and “Johnee” went on to take part in their first BE event at Askham Bryan College on 6 October.

“I’d never stopped talking about it,” Claire said. “I’d done all the preparations I could, including a disappointing dressage outing, so I thought I needed to do something about that, and had some flatwork lessons.

“This horse is a Welsh D and an absolute git! He’s hard work, challenging and harder than any former racehorse I’ve ever had, but I wanted a completion at the event – and that’s exactly what I got.

“He did a 36 dressage, the best he’s ever done, and clear showjumping with some time-faults as he was jumping so big my hat came down over my eyes. Then cross-country, we had some resistance at the water – he’s like a JCB, he’s so strong – and a cheeky run-out later, but other than that, he was brilliant.”

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Claire said there were other Wobbleberries at the event, “riding for Hannah”.

“I’m 52 and have lived my life but to die at her age, from a disease that’s so cruel – it meant a lot to me to do this,” she said.

“The event was absolutely fantastic, and now I’m addicted. I’d never been an event rider, but with this horse, I could be. He’s the most loving and forgiving horse but he’s been for sale countless times – he’s not for sale now.”

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