Top award for rider who completed prestigious double after cancer diagnosis

  • Top showing producer Rory Gilsenan has been given a special award in recognition of his top performances at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

    Rory was named 2019 winner of the Roger Stack Award at Hickstead’s showtime ball on Saturday (16 November). The award is presented in honour of former Hickstead showing director Roger Stack, who died in 2016, in recognition of the “standout showing performance of the season”.

    A spokesman for Hickstead said Rory was an “extremely worthy” winner, having completed the HOYS and RIHS double by winning the supreme working hunter title in July, while undergoing treatment for an aggressive brain tumour.

    “The popular Irishman had celebrated winning his first working hunter title at HOYS in October 2018, when his diagnosis came just a few weeks later. Following months of arduous chemotherapy treatment, Rory showed his tenacity by returning to the saddle in time to win the championship at Hickstead,” said the spokesman.

    “Following a period of remission, unfortunately the tumour returned and Rory has recently undergone another operation.”

    The spokesman added that “sadly” Rory was unable to attend the ball in person but his close friend Lee Middleton from Equine America accepted the award on Rory’s behalf.

    Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn said the organisers could not think of a more deserving winner of the award.

    “Rory’s performance this summer with Atlantic Slim was pure perfection, especially considering how he beat the odds just to compete at Hickstead, let alone pick up one of the most coveted championship titles of all,” she said.

    Profits from the showtime ball are put towards improving the showing faciltiies at the venue, with a total of £9,150 raised during a fundraising auction.

    This year, it was agreed that the £2,000 proceeds from a raffle would go towards the #RootingforRory fund, started to help Rory Gilsenan during his treatment.

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