I think the whole of the British equestrian world is in mourning, and my international readers will be when they here why.
Facebook, Twitter, all the big wigs of GB Equestrian, have been talking non-stop about a young girl for the past year. Hannah Francis, only a teenager, was a successful eventer and had just been chosen for a rider development pathway when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
Cancer at sixteen years old.
Anyway, I won’t tell her story as well as her Facebook and Twitter do, but since Hannah’s diagnosis she has been raising awareness for cancer, raising money, making famous friends, and been on an incredible journey with her mascot – Wilberry Wonder Pony.
Professionals in all equine disciplines have been touched; they’ve met her, given her yard tours, let her ride their top horses, donated to her charity, and helped raise awareness for her cause. A family of Berry ponies is born as each special person takes their own mascot. In particular, Ben Hobday who battled cancer himself in 2015 rode around Badminton with Wilberry on his back. Now people are vying to replicate this at events across the country. I even saw Wanderberry yesterday at a sponsored ride.
Hannah’s cancer didn’t go away, and she was told it was terminal at the end of last year, which meant she was more determined than ever to #kickcancersbutt and tick off her bucket list – safari, skiing, riding under the GB flag…
Loads of companies came together to produce Wilberry merchandise and Hannah was given fantastic opportunities and gifts, such as a Devoucoux saddle, and asked to ride the Guinea pig dressage test at Tattersalls International Three Day Event. Meanwhile Wilberry held black tie balls, tea parties, raffles, and between them both they have raised over £115,000.
After Tattersalls Hannah went rapidly downhill with a ruptured bowel, but carried on fighting and exceeding all expectations. That is until today, when sadly she passed away. Social media is full of personal tributes, media articles, and condolences.
I’ve listed some links below so that you can read her story for yourself, perhaps donate to help her legacy continue, and to know what to cuddly toys that all the GB equestrian team are carrying around at Rio!
Horse and Hound
I could go on, the Internet is full of Hannah and Willberry, so have a google yourself.
In the meantime, rest in peace Hannah, and know that many have been #inspiredbyhannah.