‘Showing has kept her going’: 11-year-old rider battling long Covid wins her dream ticket to Hickstead

  • An 11-year-old rider who has been battling long Covid since December has made a triumphant return to the show ring, scoring a coveted Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) ticket in the process.

    Ruby Diffey qualified the 138cm show pony Brookvale Lady Grantham (Maggie), who is produced by Brett and Tierney McKinnon, for the open show ponies at Hickstead by winning their class at British Show Pony Society (BSPS) area 9A before landing section reserve.

    Ruby, who is in her first season of affiliated showing and has been partnered with Maggie for three months, fell ill just before Christmas last year.

    “She was really sick and has been in and out of hospital,” said Ruby’s mother, Kate Diffey. “But showing has kept her going and her lessons with Brett on a Friday have been the carrot out in front of her. At one point Ruby was too weak to ride which meant we didn’t get to any of the early qualifiers, but while she still gets really tired, she’s pushed through as she adores riding Maggie.”

    Prior to her win at BSPS Area 9A, Ruby had ridden Maggie to two seconds in RIHS qualifiers:

    “Brett and Tierney have been so enthusiastic and encouraging,” added Kate. “They have helped Ruby so much, always jollying her along and making her laugh. Her school has also been incredibly supportive; they’ve let her miss out on swimming lessons so she can go riding as she doesn’t have the energy to do everything.”

    This will be Ruby’s first trip to Hickstead.

    “Maggie looks after Ruby, too; show pony classes are a bit step up for her, but the pony has her back,” Kate said.

    “When she won Ruby looked over at me beaming, and we all had a hug at the side of the ring. She did sleep a lot on the way home from the show but she’s so excited to ride at the RIHS. At one point I did wonder if we’d get any shows in at all this year, but Ruby has been determined. She’s now on the road to recovery and wants to ride in some Horse of the Year Show qualifiers.”

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