Horse of the Year Show is a dream come true for Little Easton stable manager
PUBLISHED: 08:19 30 October 2018
A stable manager and former riding instructor from Little Easton fulfilled her "life long ambition" of competing in one of the most prestigious sporting events in Britain, whilst riding a Dutch stallion called Zoe.
Former post woman Kate Beney, 45, has run Bridgefoot Stables for 16 years and achieved bronze in a show jumping competition which saw her and Zoe jump fences more than a metre high at the Horse of the Year Show.
Two weeks after the show, Kate is still wearing her orange VIP wristband, which she was given at the event, and Zoe is back in the field being spoilt with Tesco carrots.
Now a livery, where owners bring their horses to be looked after, Kate ran Bridgefoot Stables as a riding school for about 10 years, teaching hundreds during that time.
“It was only me, my husband and part time staff working at the riding school. It takes over your life. It’s six days a week and I was lucky to get a day off,” Kate says.
Sitting in Kate’s office, next to an unusually large cat called Tigger, who, at 10 kilos, weighs more than one of Kate’s dogs, I ask if the widely-held view that horse riding is a wealthy person’s sport, is accurate.
“I think unfortunately... it’s so expensive to run a riding school and obviously that’s reflected in the cost of the lessons,” said Kate.
“I think it’s perceived as a rich man’s sport but people in it have no money because all their money goes on their horses. A lot of people are there through their hard work and you sacrifice other things.
“There are people who are lucky and have money... but that’s not me. I muck out the stables every day so I can afford to compete.”
Kate grew up in Saddleworth and started riding at five-years-old, before moving near Bishop’s Stortford.
“I was just like every other kid, I kept saying ‘mum, dad can I ride a pony?’ They took my along and stuck me on a pony and that was it, I got the bug.
“When I was about 15 I found a riding school and I just lived there. I had to go to school occasionally, but the rest of my time and every spare minute was spent with horses.”
At 22, she became a post woman in Saffron Walden, a job which led to her meeting Steve Beney, who she went on to marry.
Kate said: “It was a proper job with holiday and sick pay whereas with horses it’s a funny industry. I thought horses would be my hobby which worked for a while. I blame my old riding teacher. She was looking for someone to work at her yard and I thought, ‘okay then’.
“At one stable I worked at we named the horses after TV shows and sweets, so we had an ‘Allo ‘Aello and a Malteser,” Kate added.
All season Kate had worked towards qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show, competing in the bronze league, which is for amateur riders.
In August she was one of the top seven in the semi-final, meaning she would compete in the final.
“Getting through to the finals was almost the best bit. That was the moment you realise you have achieved your life ambition,” Kate says.
The event was held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, from October 3-7.
“The NEC is massive and you turn up and there’s hundreds of horse boxes... it was brilliant,” Kate says.
“When I was riding I was just thinking ‘please do not let me knock the first fence down’. I just didn’t want to let Zoe down.”
I ask about the wrist band and Kate jokes that she is never going to take it off.
She would love to go back to Horse of the Year, and next time perhaps compete in the silver league, where the fences are even higher.