Top riders cross-dressing, carrying watermelons and riding a mule for Willberry Wonder Pony

  • What do you get if you combine showjumpers, farriers, a mule, some large ladies’ clothes, several hefty watermelons and a bottle of 45% brandy?

    The answer is £6,000 raised for Willberry Wonder Pony, thanks to a day of adults’ gymkhana games last weekend (17 September).

    Abbie Buffy Hart said her East Grinstead-based hunting yard Hart Equine runs an annual charity event but that this year’s was more than the norm.

    “It was a silly idea but it just really worked,” she told H&H.

    “Hannah Francis caught everyone’s imagination, and we wanted to do something a bit more properly for her – and my god, we did!”

    Abbie invited riders including Kent-based showjumpers Robert Whitaker and Ben Dalton, as well as local eventer Sacha Hourigan and members of the Old Surrey & Burstow and East Sussex hunts.

    Along with a team of farriers –one of whom had never ridden before – the riders took on challenges including a chase-me-Charlie, a dressing up race, an egg-and-spoon with a belt of brandy en route and a relay race, with watermelons instead of batons.

    “It was amazing, watching the teamwork,” Abbie said.

    “One of the farriers had never been on a horse but there were his teammates, dragging him along, as he was dressed in women’s clothes and carrying his watermelon.

    “We had one mule among the horses we provided, and she made it because she was so awful!


    “We gave her to the hunt team and she stole the show. They worked out that if they got her up to the end, she’d come back quickly and she almost won the chase-me-Charlie, jumping 1.05m.

    “The riders got so involved; they were cross-dressing and covered with lipstick and melon, no one cared what they looked like and they really enjoyed it.”


    Abbie said she was delighted all the riders and spectators appeared to enjoy themselves – but also that the event raised about £6,000 for the charity set up by young eventer Hannah Francis, who died from cancer in August.

    “One lady came and paid her £20, but then sent another £200 saying that’s how much fun she’d had,” Abbie said.

    “Hannah was inspiring. To be her age, and to take her prognosis and turn it into something so positive was incredible.

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    “And there’s the fact her charity funds horsey wishes for people with serious illnesses, as well as research – I think that touches people’s imaginations, being able to do a few last things you’d always wanted to. That’s why we did it.”

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