An eventer who has had a whirlwind of a year has been given the Willberry Wonder Pony Hannah Francis Award.
Emily Mustow, who knew young event rider Hannah, has become the winner of the award, which the charity gives annually to an inspirational eventer.
The 17-year-old started the 2017 season aiming for the junior teams but suffered concussion in a fall at Withington Manor in April.
She fell from her beloved partner Prime Time II (“Fred”), who is owned by Annie Finch, jumping out of the water and was knocked unconscious.
She came round shortly afterwards and after a hospital check was discharged to recover at home.
The following month, the day her eventing ban for concussion was due to be lifted, she was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery for acute appendicitis.
Emily was out of action for another six weeks, but was determined to return to eventing before the end of the season.
After a couple of BE100 runs, Emily decided she would tackle her first one-star at Frickley, within months of her surgery.
“It was my first one and one of the biggest in the country,” Emily told H&H.
“I got there and my mum said, ‘You shouldn’t be here’, but I had so much faith in Fred. He’s the most amazing horse and I absolutely trust him.
“I felt sick in the warm-up. The plan was if I felt tired I would pull up.
“I got to fence 12 and was absolutely knackered and thought I was going to have to pull up, but I had a long gallop between fences and then he just got me home.
“I managed to finish and it was amazing. I burst into tears.”
Emily continued for the rest of the season but her head injury was causing her serious problems. She became very sensitive to light and emotional and was suffering pain throughout her body.
Emily battled on riding but collapsed at her lorry after competing at Osberton in September.
“I had been hiding my problems from everyone, the only thing that a few people had picked up on was my change in personality,” she said.
“My mum showed me a video of jump jockeys talking about the affects of concussion and by the end of watching it I broke down crying — it felt like someone else had had the same problems as me.
“I had an MRI scan to get everything checked and found I also had a bulging disk in my spine and a degenerating disk. I’m having physio to improve this.
“It’s been a very tough year and I couldn’t have done it without Fred, he’s my world.”
Emily said it was “incredible” to win the award, for which she was nominated by her mother, Hannah, and best friend Immi Marchant.
“Hannah [Francis] was incredible,” said Emily.
“Even in her darkest days she would speak to me and say, ‘Never give up on your dreams’ and that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“My dream was the same as hers — to ride for our country. I told her I wouldn’t give up on my dream for her.”
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Emily will be presented with the award by Hannah’s parents at Kitty King’s yard in the near future.
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