Top eventer beats cancer to return to winning form at Belsay Horse Trials and helps to raise £2,000 for cancer charities

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.

Belsay HOBDAY ©Katie Neat Photography-2

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 both charities by holding a special raffle in the Corporate Hospitality Tent on Sunday 5th June. With a fantastic range of prizes donated by Barbour and trade stands like and Laland & Bo, the raffle raised a fantastic £2,000 to be split between the two causes.

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 3rd in the Barbour Intermediate Section F behind Ben in 1st and her best friend Jay Ryder in who was 2nd 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 Cross Country Courses win Praise from Professional and Amateur Riders

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 18th 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.

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 2nd 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 2nd in the Hello Activ Technology BE100 Section K on Sunday with Funky Town.

Harry Mutch
Harry Mutch

Nicola Wilson results included 7th in the Ryecroft Glenton Novice Regional Final Section A on Erano M on Saturday; 3rd and 6th in the Hello Activ Technology BE100 Section K and 2nd in the Bond Dickinson BE100 Section L on Sunday.

The UBS Open Intermediate Section G was won this year by Morven Pringle on Dunbog Gypsy Rose. Julie Lawson was 2nd on her home-bred Primitive Faerie Tale – another good result for this pair who were 3rd in the same section last year – while 3rd went to Katie Magee on Dollarney, who won it last year.

The Novice Sections had full entries. The Intermediate Novice Section B was won by Joanne Earle on Craic in Time with Jessica Powell in 2nd on Cupido IV and popular local rider Will Murray in 3rd on Rubins Hope. The Go as You Please Novice Section D was won by Scottish Rider Kirstin Bamford with Yorkshire-based James Adams in 2nd on Reuben Rialton and rising German Star Pia Munker, who is also based in Yorkshire with Chris Bartle, in 3rd on Gretchen.

The Open Novice Section E, sponsored by Stratstone Cars – new to the Belsay Sponsorship Stable – was won by Josie Proctor on Caprona, with local rider Victoria Devlin 2nd on Right Rebel and organisers’ daughter Delilah de Wesselow, riding on home turf, 3rd on Surely Valentine. Victoria was the winner of the Auchendinny Carnegie Trophy for the highest placed Northumbrian Rider in the Novice Classes.

Local riders enjoyed huge success Gibson & Co Open Intermediate U21 Section H: Seaton Delavel’s Harry Mutch swept the board coming 1st on HD Bronze, 3rd on Cushina Cypress and 8th on IPW Nom de Plume; while Pip Nixon from Little Whittington was 2nd on Artic Cruising and Ponteland-based Andrew Winn was 10th on Calico Z.

Belsay PIP ©Katie Neat Photography-2
Pip Nixon

Pip Nixon was the only rider to compete across all four courses at Belsay –coming 2nd in the OIu21 (above), 12th in the Cussins Homes Novice Section C on Game of Luck, 1st in the Brewin Dolphin BE100 Open Section N on Dunloughlin Whirlwind and 7th in the Zebras in Disguise BE90 Section Q on Hallo Quality Penny.

The BE100 U18 Section M, sponsored by Queen Margaret’s School York was hotly contested. It was won by 13 year old Yorkshire rider Connie Gill on Hotshots with Jo Beattie from Scotch Corner in 2nd on Crackenthorpe Nightingale and local girl Kate Poole in 3rd on Johny Oxx.

Professional rider James Sommerville continued his recent good run of form with two wins at Belsay – in the Lycetts BE100 Section I on Master Ramiro and in Rural Solutions BE100 Section K on Shadow Inspector. Sara Bowe from North Yorkshire posted a win in the Hello Activ BE100 Section K on Ricardo Breeze.

First-time wins were recorded for riders across all the BE90 sections on Sunday: Rosie Beveridge-Pearson from Riding Mill on Smokey and The Bandit in the Fit 4 Less BE90 Section O; Jane Bolser from Ikley on Bentley in the Sedbergh School BE90 Section P; and Grace Fell from Alnwick on No Spare Parts in the Zebras in Disguise BE90 Section Q.

Working Hunter Pony and PC Show Jumping in the Zebras in Disguise Arena

Organisers Peter and Laura de Wesselow are keen to attract the younger generation to Belsay Horse Trials. New for this year was the Zebras in Disguise Arena 2 which hosted a BSPS Area 1a Working Hunter Pony show on Saturday 4th June with classes open to all. Xanthe de Wesselow, who won the 133cm WHP class was awarded Champion Working Hunter Pony and was also the winner and Champion of Belsay Event Pony, a class sponsored by Mowden Hall School.

A Pony Club Team Show Jumping competition was held in the Zebras in Disguise Arena on Sunday 5th June. Teams from local pony clubs competed, including the Tynedale, Morpeth, Percy, South Northumberland, North Northumberland and Newcastle and Durham.

The Percy Hunt B team, consisting of Libby Chrisp, Millie Mahoney, Sophie Allen and Holly Shanks won the junior 75-80cm Pony Club Team Show Jumping, with north Northumberland A team in second and North Northumberland B team in third.

The winners of class two, the 90-100cm class were the South Northumberland, with team members Gemma Burvil, Ross Fiori, Katie Bailey and Lucy Bailey with Percy Hunt in second and Newcastle and Northumberland in third.

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

New Sponsors Join the Belsay Stable

With lead sponsor, Barbour, and Show Jumping Arena Sponsor, Bond Dickinson, Belsay continuing their support, Belsay was delighted to welcome Stratstone and Land Factor into its Platinum sponsorship club alongside UBS, Cussins and Ryecroft Glenton.

The UK’s premium automotive retailer, Stratstone brought a selection of its Land Rover and Jaguar cars to Belsay for the weekend of the Horse Trials. Local land agents, Land Factor look after Belsay Estate and, having been involved in the trials since they started in 2013, this year decided to upgrade their sponsorship.

Zebras in Disguise, a new bespoke equestrian boutique based at Kirkharle Courtyard, is another exciting new addition to Belsay’s sponsorship stable. The company, which aims to offer advice and products to riders at all levels, sponsored the new second arena at Belsay Horse Trials.

Since it started in 2013, Belsay has been supported by Northumberland’s leading co-ed prep school, Mowden Hall, and by the North’s preminent girls school, Queen Margaret’s, York. This year, Sedburgh School also became a sponsor.

Shopping, Eating and Lots to do!

Belsay Horse Trials is well known for its fabulous selection of trade stands. This year was no exception with fairground rides, dog agility alongside lots of new trade stands and a new craft tent for smaller artisan traders.

Laura de Wesselow

Photographs courtesy of Katie Neat

Read Previous

Girls lead the way at Brand Hall

Read Next