When we received the shortlist for the 2015 FEI Awards this afternoon, we were thrilled to see that Ben Hobday was up for the Against All Odds prize. This is awarded to those who have pursued their equestrian ambitions despite physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances.
Little did we realise that Ben had not yet heard about his nomination! Earlier in the week we had arranged to have a chat with Ben ahead of Your Horse Live, which takes place on the 14th and 15th November at Stoneleigh Park and marks Ben’s first public appearance since his diagnosis. We were obviously delighted to break the news to Ben and congratulate him on his nomination.
“It is absolutely amazing and quite overwhelming! Wow! It is really good news ! I will, of course, be honouring my commitment to Your Horse Live unless anyone has a jet they want to fly me over to Puerto Rico in next week!”
Ben, who has very bravely shared his road to recovery publicly with this enormous fan base, is now back riding and has to be regularly reminded by his doctors to take it easy.
“I’m glad to be back – I have actually got my scan next week – I get the results after Your Horse Live, so as long as that goes well, I will be back in training soon. Taking it easy for me is hard but I am trying to be sensible. I have got 3 or 4 horses in now instead of the usual 10. Shadow Man, the 5 year old is going to Your Horse Live next week. He’s a lovely horse, has a really good attitude, and next year as a 6 year old will hopefully be starting his international career, which will be fun.
Shadow Soldier is a thoroughbred and definitely one for the future. He is a really nice horse and then there’s Grubs Cilletto. He went 2* at Tatts this year and I think a lot of him. He started out quite nervous, was very careful and was a bit scared of the world. Before this happened, he had really stepped up to the plate and his future could be quite exciting. He’s nice on the flat, a very careful jumper and very fast.
The Super Cob (Mr Mulry) is still on holiday but is back at the beginning of December and we all can’t wait to have him back.”
It was clear from chatting to Ben that he is raring to get going again and nothing is going to get in his way. His gratitude for those who have supported him and his family, both friends, colleagues and strangers was very touching. Ben’s girlfriend, Emma Carmichael, has been by his side helping him get through this, “She deserves so much credit as I could not have gone through this without her. And my mum and dad have been amazing as it has been very tough on them as well.
Rachel Moran, my manager, has kept the business going because life goes on and bills still need paying. She has done it all, she makes sure I don’t too much and says who I can and can’t ride. The plan in my head is to keep building the business up. As soon as I get the scan results, and fingers crossed, touch wood, that it is positive news, then I will start training again – both with the horses and rehabilitation for me. I have lost quite a bit of weight, and even though I have put some back on, my muscle tone and core stability is not back to normal yet. It’s weird as I have never felt this weak in my life before – I have to deal with all that and it will take time. The V8 Supercob needs some guns to hold on to him!”
Ben touched on the dark moments, the early days when fear set in…
“Whenever I had the chance to come out of hospital, it was brilliant to see and touch the horses but to be honest, it was the lovely messages that really helped me. They helped occupy my time and gave me something to concentrate on.
My first few weeks in hospital were very tough and I only slept for about 20 minutes each night for the first 2 weeks. Instead of thinking about things I shouldn’t be thinking about, I was able to reply to all the kind messages from strangers and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for everyone’s support – they really helped me out.”
Recently Ben met Hannah Francis and Wilberry the Wonder Pony on a special visit at Ben’s yard.
“Hannah is a very strong young lady and I have got a lot of admiration for her. It was lovely to finally meet her. I kept thinking if I feel tired, how tired must Hannah be as she is still in treatment, but she rode Shadow Man incredibly well and I thought I might be losing the ride at this rate! I told Hannah she can come ride Mulry when he is back.”
How has Your Horse Live helped your recovery?
“I have had to cancel a lot of demos and training clinics this year and I really wanted to try and aim for something that I would feel well enough for. The team at Your Horse Live have been very supportive and having Paul Tapner there is great as he can do a bit more of the riding if I get tired. As an event rider, there are people who want your advice, and when I announced my diagnosis, I really didn’t want anyone to hear it second hand. I wanted people to hear it from me. They have supported me in the good times and life isn’t all plain sailing so I wanted to make sure I kept those who had supported me in the loop. It’s great to be going to Your Horse Live to show them that I am going in the right direction and it’s all thanks to them.”
We, like the entire global eventing family, will be praying Ben’s scan results bring positive news. We are incredibly grateful to Ben for talking to us today and we look forward to seeing him in action at Your Horse Live.