The showing world has been left in shock following the sudden death of a young rider, who passed away in her sleep on 3 July.
Melissa Grace Hatton, 24, enjoyed success at top level on ponies and intermediates in the show ring. She started competing at age three at her local riding club, winning her first rosette in the most appealing pony class. Aged seven, she progressed to national level showing, rising through the ranks of the British Show Pony Classes (BSPS) and regularly competing at both the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS).
The talented rider’s ponies, past and present, included Dandy, Bramble Jenny Wren, Woodnook Orinoco, Romany River Olivia, Musley Rue De Royale, her wonderful Chaseford Aspen, Wydham Little Rascal, Rhos Escapade, Deja Vu, Little Darcy, Laybalands Viscount and Kirtle Bertie Bassett.
Melissa was an active committee member of BSPS area 4A where she organised young judges’ competitions. She also supported the British Elite showing series and local riding clubs.
“Melissa was never without a horse or pony,” said Melissa’s mother Suzanne. “She was a friend to everyone, an aspiring young teacher, and her beautiful smile will be sadly missed.”
A trust is to be set up in Melissa’s memory by her parents and close friends to support underprivileged children.
Melissa’s friends have also pulled together to create their own tribute to the young rider in the form of badges that competitors will wear on their show jackets in the ring.
Lucie Gordon-Burgess had known Melissa since 2008 when they started showing together in pony classes.
“At the time, there was a group of us who were all in the same classes on the same height of ponies,” said Lucie. “Most of us were home-produced and were in similar situations so we’d support each other. As we grew up, we became good friends.
“We wanted to do something for Melissa so we could remember her but have her with us while we do the sport she loved and which ultimately made us all friends.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with orders from the showing community.”
Social media has been flooded with tributes for the young rider.
The BSPS also paid tribute to the popular competitor who was a regular face at the championship shows.
“The Society is very sad to hear about Melissa Hatton who has sadly passed away,” said the statement. “Melissa was a lovely young lady who had been a member of the BSPS since 2005. She has regularly competed successfully at the summer championships since then with all her ponies Wyndham Little Rascal, Rhos Escapade, Little Darcy and currently Laybalands Viscount. She was a very popular, thoughtful and kind competitor who loved her sport and her ponies. Our thoughts and prayers are with her parents and friends at this difficult time.”
Melissa’s family have set up a Just Giving page in Melissa’s memory, where donations can be made towards causes close to Melissa’s heart.
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