A young rider who is under palliative care for leukaemia is to attend Olympia for this first time this year thanks to public generosity.
Bryony Faasen, 12, only started riding after her diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia two years ago, and her mother Carol said her two ponies “make her life worth living”.
“If we hadn’t had them, we wouldn’t have had as many happy days,” she told H&H. “Even if Bryony’s had a really rubbish day, when she gets to the yard, she has a smile on her face.
“She was in hospital from early June to late September this year, but when the play therapist started talking about her ponies, or she watched videos of herself riding, she’d be buzzing and happy.
“They give her the strength to carry on.”
Bryony underwent a bone marrow transplant in March 2018 and initially, it seemed to have been a success.
But at the end of that summer, she started feeling unwell, and it was found the leukaemia had returned, “as bad as it was at the beginning”.
Because she had relapsed so soon, Carol said, another transplant was not an option, so Bryony underwent chemotherapy, which allowed her to return to school – and ride.
“She started year seven like everyone else, saw her friends, and wanted to start riding,” Carol said. “I couldn’t afford it but a friend at school let her ride her pony.
“Then Bryony came in and said: ‘Mummy, I’ve met a pony who’s sick and looking for a human – and I think I’m that human’.
“I said ‘oh gosh. What do I do?’ and the pony’s owner said she was happy for her to ride him as much as possible. In April, she did her first dressage test, and won.”
Carol’s work also held a whip-round for Bryony, raising £1,000 with which meant another pony, Tatty, came to join Potter at the yard.
“So we come twice a day to do them; whether Bryony’s well or not, she’s determined,” Carol said.
“She rides as much as she can and if she’s not feeling strong enough, she comes down to see them; they’re her therapy.
“Part of it is having them to look forward to, and get out of bed for, when you feel rubbish and everything’s going wrong. When she’s there, her personality comes out and she forgets she’s sick. It’s lovely to see.”
And then came Olympia.
Potter’s owner, Harry Talbot-Erasmus, told H&H she had been talking to Bryony’s family about the show.
“I love Olympia and though I never went as a child, you can see how wonderful it is for them; it’s magical,” she said.
“I knew Bryony’s family were struggling, but I needed to get them there somehow.”
Harry put a post on social media asking whether anyone had contacts who might be able to secure tickets – and was overwhelmed by the support and offers of help.
UK Animo suppliers Reform Sport offered tickets and a JustGiving page set up to cover hotel and travel costs raised over £1,000.
Reform Sport owner Claire Hallion told H&H she has also arranged for the family to meet the top riders, as well as upgrading their hotel stay.
“It was a no-brainer,” she said. “We want to make something nice happen for her, and for it to be as special as possible.”
“It was amazing,” Harry added. “The response was incredible. It’s all about making memories.”
Harry said Potter had come into her life as his previous owner, who also had cancer, had died.
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“I truly believe he was meant for Bryony,” she said. “He’s an amazing pony, who’s brilliant with her, and I think that was his purpose.”
Carol said she, her husband, son and Bryony are all looking forward to the trip.
“Bryony couldn’t believe it,” she said. “A friend took her to Windsor this spring and she loved it, but I think this is going to be even more special.
“It’s something to look forward to; when everything is rubbish, it’s a beacon of hope.”
Carol added that of course, the trip depends on how Bryony is feeling, as a sudden infection could mean a trip to hospital is needed.
But Bryony said: “We’ll be there.”
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