News from Across the Pond: Close To $10,000 Raised At Launch, As ‘Middle Aged, Wimpy Riders’ Encouraged to Take Up the Reins

Columnist Kathy Carter shares the latest equestrian news from British shores. This week she reports on The Wobbleberry Challenge, an initiative for ‘middle aged, wimpy riders’ to go eventing in memory of the late Hannah Francis.

The Wobbleberries Challenge logo

The Wobbleberries Challenge logo. Illustration by Ian and Sally Barr.

Brit Sally Barr, a self-confessed ‘wimpy weekend rider,’ recently set up an innovative project that has taken the world of eventing by storm. In memory of the late event rider Hannah Francis, and to raise funds for Hannah’s charity Willberry Wonder Pony, The Wobbleberries Challenge was born. “I have never evented, but got my eventing fix by being an owner in a syndicate, and also through spectating,” Sally says by way of introduction.

Photo by Hannah's charity, Willberry Wonder Pony.

Illustration courtesy of Hannah’s charity, Willberry Wonder Pony.

She came up with the idea of challenging herself to get fit in order to compete in a British Eventing (BE) 80cm event, to raise funds for Hannah’s charity. “The response has been overwhelming,” Sally tells EN. “We have had so many offers of help and support from the equestrian community.”

Sally’s co-organiser Georgie Horrell suggested the group name “The Wobbleberries,” and after approval from the Trustees of Hannah’s charity, the Facebook group The Wobbleberries Challenge was launched.

“It is for middle aged, wimpy riders who have been inspired by Hannah Francis to start eventing,” Sally says. “Hannah inspired thousands of people that she never met, and achieved so much in her tragically short life. We want to raise money for Willberry Wonder Pony and challenge ourselves to compete in the sport that Hannah loved.”

“The exact challenge is to compete at a British Eventing 80 event in the autumn of 2017. To get there will require lots of other challenges along the way, for many people — such as getting fit, losing weight, conquering nerves, training hard and learning the skills necessary to be able to compete safely. So for anyone who’s interested, if you are 25 or over, have access to a horse that is capable of completing a BE80, and are committed to training hard and raising lots of money, please download and return our Expression Of Interest form — British riders ideally needs to do this by Friday 16th September, so we can collate the details!”

Sally and the team are also looking for people who can assist with offering training facilities and clinics, and perhaps support for The Wobbleberries with training videos and online mentoring. “We want to build a really supportive community of people inspired by Hannah to come together,” she adds.

International Wobbleberries Unite

There are already like-minded people setting up a similar challenge in Canada, and Sally says she’d be delighted if an enterprising rider or organiser in the USA would follow suit. “Email me at [email protected] if you can assist in any way,” Sally excitedly tells EN.

"We want to build a really supportive community of people inspired by Hannah."

“We want to build a really supportive community of people inspired by Hannah.” Photo by Ian & Sally Barr.

Anyone wishing to support the charity can also become ‘Friends of Willberry’ — click the link for info. Sally concludes, “It would be great if in a year’s time, so many people could say that Hannah inspired them to do much more with their horses than they had thought possible.”

We will be following the progress of some Wobbleberries throughout the season as they prepare for their challenge, so do watch this space.

Author’s update: As of nineteeth September 2016, Sally Barr tells us that the Wobbleberries Challenge had already raised close to $10,000 when the deadline for entrants closed. All funds raised will go towards bone cancer research and granting horsey wishes to those with serious illnesses. Sally Barr tells EN: “The Challenge has now attracted interest from as far afield as Australia, Canada and the USA as well as Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight, and the group include people from all walks of life including an airline pilot, midwife, zoologist, doctor, a number of police officers, gardeners, electricians and a married couple with a combined age of 126!”

Go Eventing and Go Wobbleberries!