After competing at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for many years on coloureds, paramedic Emma Rees is gearing up to ride in the International Arena for the very first time aboard her new purchase, 11-year-old large hack contender Holmestones Tailor Made.
Emma Rees, who works for the Welsh Ambulance Service, recently bought “Worzel” from his former owner Janet Neeld. Janet had Worzel in production with leading producer Jayne Ross, who rode him to third at the Royal International (RIHS) in July and qualified him for HOYS at Stoneleigh Horse Show.
“He is still with Jayne and will come home to me after HOYS,” says Emma, who last rode at HOYS on her own mare, The Dutchess III. “I’ve had horses all my life and show jumped when I was younger. More recently I’ve owned and shown coloureds.”
Just 12 months ago, Emma was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
“I had about eight horses on and after my diagnosis I went into auto-pilot and sold all the best ones,” she explains. “I was still fit and felt strong, despite having chemotherapy, so I decided to look for a horse to show. While I wanted to compete, I was on the hunt for something I didn’t have to ride and school everyday, and Worzel has turned out to be the ideal horse. I fell in love with him when I first sat on him, and he knows his job inside out.”
For Emma, who is still undergoing treatment, HOYS 2022 will be her debut in hack classes.
“There are so many new elements to learn,” she says. “I’ve been travelling from Wales to Jayne’s yard in Oxfordshire to ride Worzel as much as I can. I don’t want to just get on him at a show; I want us to know and trust each other when we get into that ring.”
When asked how she fits showing in between work as a paramedic, Emma says life is “manic” but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Winter is hard, but the horses always come first. If I start my shift at 7am I’m up at 4.30am to tend to them, and similarly, if I’m late finishing I will head straight to the horses after work. I thrive off this lifestyle. When I sold all my horses I totally regretted it, so now I get my horsey fix anyway I can; I ride my friend’s show horses and help with breakers at a local riding school.
“I also realise that there are a lot of other people in the world who are worse off than me. Even when I’m going through chemo, I don’t let it get on top of me. Some days I get too tired, but others I can get out riding and I feel lucky.”
Ahead of HOYS, Emma is not letting anything hold her back.
“The second time I rode Worzel I had six week until HOYS so I realised we needed to crack on. He did everything I asked; it was me who needed the training! I’m looking forward to Worzel coming home after HOYS for a bit of a break before gearing up for next season. He’ll do other things, too, as I like to keep my horses fresh and interested.”
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Credit: SBM Photographic
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