Bishop Sutton’s Nikki Baker came third in the Jockey Challenge sponsored by race horse trainer Paul Nicholls at this year’s Royal Bath & West.
The challenge held in the main ring saw seven jockeys from Nicholls race yard including Nick Schofield and Harry Cobden paired with show jumpers like Nikki to ride a parallel course against the clock.
All competitors carried Willberry Wonder Ponies in memory of Somerset’s Hannah Francis, a young event rider who at 17 was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Hannah’s companion throughout her battle to “kick cancer’s butt” was Willberry the Wonder Pony, a small stuffed toy horse. Willberry has ridden around Badminton Horse Trials, the pinnacle competition on the eventing calendar, pigbacking on some of the world’s top riders, and now it was his turn to jump at the Bath & West in memory of Hannah who passed away last August aged just 18.
Nikki tied her Wilberry Wonder Pony to her saddle as she jumped the course on her horse Mr Willoughby. Nikki and her fellow show jumpers had to clear 1metre 30 fences whilst their jockey partners had to clear 1 metre jumps.
“As we [the show jumpers] landed after the seventh fence, our jockey partner could start their course, it was all against the clock and proper fast,” explained Nikki. “It was such a great crowd watching and Willy thrived on the atmosphere. It was such fun."
Earlier in the week at the Royal Bath & West Nikki who is the Show Jumping Brand Ambassador for B&W Equine, competed in a working hunter class on another of her rides and came sixth in the Royal International Show qualifier.
After the excitement of the Bath & West WIllberry the Wonder Pony will be competing at Barbury Horse Trials this week, 6th-9th July. Hannah’s charity has been named Barbury’s chosen charity for this year, and event riders will be once again strapping Willberry to their saddles and backs before heading out onto the cross-country course and into the showjumping arenas. The Gazette will be at the horse trials reporting on the progress of local event riders- Dani Evans, Selina Milne and Emily Young-Jamieson as well Willberry. If you are heading to Wiltshire for the event keep your eye out for him.