Ben overcomes cancer scare for an emotional victory at Belsay

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Ben Hobday stormed to victory in the Barbour Intermediate Section F at Belsay Horse Trials posting a dressage score of 27.7 and a fantastic double clear on Steel Clover.

It was an emotional return for Ben who had competed at Belsay in 2015 not feeling his best – 10 days later he was diagnosed with Burkitts Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is a particularly aggressive type of Cancer.

Ben, who lives in Cheshire, subsequently underwent five months of intensive treatment at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. Throughout he was supported by his then girlfriend and now fiancée, Emma Carmichael, whose parents live at Longhorsley, near Morpeth.

Ben is overwhelmed by the fantastic treatment, care and support that he received here in Newcastle and has been raising money and awareness for Bright Red, the cancer research charity based at the Freeman Hospital over the past six months.

He is now a Patron of that charity and has also been made a patron of Wilberry the Wonder Pony, a charity set up by fellow cancer sufferer and amateur eventer, Hannah Francis.

Organisers of Belsay Horse Trials, Laura and Peter de Wesselow, have felt very involved in Ben’s fight against cancer and decided to raise money for his charities by holding a special raffle in the Corporate Hospitality Tent, which rauised £2,000.

It really was a fairy-tale weekend for Ben and Emma – Ben also recorded a second and third in the Rural Solutions BE100 Section J on Saturday on Ekamorka and Shadow Soldier and a 4th in the Lycetts BE100 Section I on Direct Distraction.

Not to be outdone, fiancée Emma, riding her own horse Diereckt, was 3 rd in the Barbour Intermediate Section F behind Ben in first and her best friend Jay Ryder in who was second on her own Black Boy Clover.

Emma was also awarded a cash prize of £250 for the Intermediate rider nearest the cross country optimum time.

New course designer Adrian Ditcham, who designs courses all over the UK up to Advanced level, made some key changes, including a new start and finish which ensured a smoother flowing track for all classes at Belsay this year.

New fences included a new Boat House as well as replicas of the famous Belsay Stallion stables which were home to racehorses when Belsay was a stud and racing stable in the 18 th century.

“Belsay has a fantastic setting but the topography of the site is very hilly, which in itself is a challenge for the horses. I have tried to simplify the course so that horse and rider have more of a chance to get into a nice rhythm before we ask them any serious questions,” says Ditcham.

The 2012 London Olympic Silver Medallist and Rio hopeful Nicola Wilson was delighted with the new cross country tracks at Belsay this year, as was rising Scottish star and 2015 European Team-member Wills Oakden.

Wills had a very successful weekend with results including a win in the Ryecroft Glenton Novice Regional Final Section A on Ballbreaker SD, a 2 nd on Call me Bon Jovi in the Cussins Homes Novice Section C, which was won by Co. Durham based rider Anna Warnecke on Wait for It, and another second in the Hello Activ Technology BE100 Section K on Sunday with Funky Town.

Nicola Wilson results included seventh in the Ryecroft Glenton Novice Regional Final Section A on Erano M on Saturday; 3 rd and 6 th in the Hello Activ Technology BE100 Section K and 2 nd in the Bond Dickinson BE100 Section L on Sunday.

Both the Working Hunter Pony Show and the Pony Club Team Show Jumping were deemed a huge success and organisers have pledged that they will continue next year.