Dewsbury’s Helen White cannot even remember how long her eventing career has spanned.
Either way it’s all set to last a little longer for a 57-year-old enjoying something of a late renaissance in the saddle.
White enjoyed her finest moments as an eventer in the mid-1990s when Wily Wizard scooped three Intermediates before progressing to Advanced.
He was eventually sold to an owner in the United States – for a princely sum of £30,000 which funded White and husband Kevin’s new AGA and kitchen. But now, some 20 years on, White is cooking up a new equine star with eight-year-old Persian Royalty’s ninth-placed finish in the 2013 BE90 Badminton Grassrooots Championships followed by victory in a BE100 class at Richmond.
White now hopes to qualify her eight-year-old for next year’s BE100 Badminton class before moving to Novice level with Persian Royalty threatening to become this decade’s Wily Wizard of 90s fame. Back then White was in her 30s but even as her 60s approach the thriving Dewsbury rider has no plans of stopping.
“When I went to Badminton everybody joked because the horse was eight and both of our combined ages were 65,” White told the Yorkshire Post.
“If you add in Chris McGrann my trainer it gets even higher as I think he’s nearly 60 as well. A lot of the time people will look at me and look at the horse and say ‘who’s going to ride it for you?’
“I say ‘well actually I’m going to ride it’ which always comes as a bit of a shock to them.
“But there’s quite a lot of older people doing it and I’m not feeling like giving up any time soon – even though my husband is hoping that I will,” she added.
There seems little chance of that happening with White owning four horses namely Persian Royalty, Calliaghstown Can Do, Cruisings Slainte Mhath and Calliaghstown Comet – the latter a four-year-old brother to Calliaghstown Can who is up for sale.
Ripon-raised White competes the other trio in banks of two and at this rate there will be bids on the table for rising star Persian Royalty.
It may be far fetched to think White’s eight-year-old will reach Advanced level but her rider admits she simply has no idea how far her mount will go.
“You never want to say how far a horse will go because you never want to tempt fate, do you?” said White, marketing director for interior window blinds designer Blind Fashion, a company her husband Kevin owns.
“But Persian Royalty is certainly showing the right sort of ability and when we bought him a couple of years ago Chris and I had doubts over whether he was going to be ideal for an elderly lady because he is quite a scopey horse.
“But you never know how far they will go and with Wily Wizard I remember thinking I will do a bit of Riding Club with him and he went Advanced.
“You can’t tell – you just keep going and you see where they go. The horse brings you along rather than you bringing the horse along.”
Maybe so but White is also proving an inspiration for others – and another fine equine ambassador for the village of Briestfield.
Briestfield’s Alexandra Farrar-Fry won the BE90 section of the 2011 Badminton Grassroots indicating that there must be something in the Dewsbury village’s air.
“People joke that it’s obviously the postcode,” laughed White, educated at Ripon Grammar School.
“They say you only have to live in that post code to do well at Badminton.
“It’s nice that things are going well and actually Chris Bartle’s sister-in-law Gay Bartle said that she’s nearly starting all over again because I have inspired her – she rang me up and told me that. I don’t know how old she is but she’s older than me – I went to her 60th birthday and don’t remember when that was.”
While White herself will celebrate her 60th in 2016 – even then it is highly likely that this evergreen Yorkshire ace will still be in the saddle. There are certainly plans aplenty.
“Obviously we’d like to go back to Badminton for the BE100 next year and the qualifications run until the end of June,” said White.
“After the end of June we will push on with Persian Royalty and we’ll aim him to go Novice next year and possibly then to Tattersalls a year this Spring. That would be my ideal and he’s also in the Riding Club team for the regionals so hopefully he will go there and qualify for the Championships as well. We’ve quite a few things to be playing around with.”
Teenager Bell places in top five at Floors Castle
Thirsk teenager Chloe Bell continued her relentless progress with a fine showing on her debut at Floors Castle last weekend.
Bell, just 15, approached the event following a fine sixth-placed finish in the BE90 2012 Badminton Grassrooots Championships as well as a runners-up berth in a BE100 event at Richmond.
And the Yorkshire ace did not disappoint at Floors Castle where she posted two BE100 top-five finishes.
Bell finished second on Feagh Delamain in one section where she was only outpointed by Northallerton’s Olympic silver medallist Nicola Wilson on Dartans Greenlough Tom.
Bell was also fifth in another BE100 section on Foxhill Jet whom she partnered to such good effect at Badminton.
Meanwhile, Barbury International Eventing and Show have announced that Kauto Star will be appearing at this year’s event on Sunday, July 7.
Following his retirement, the dual Gold Cup winner has been re-trained for dressage by leading British event rider Laura Collett – who will be competing on Allora 3 in the CCI three-star Under-25 section at the Bramham International Horse Trials which begin on Thursday, June 6.
At Barbury, Kauto Star and Collett will be performing a demonstration in the main arena with Yogi Breisner, World Class Performance Manager and Chef d’Equipe to the British Eventing team.
York and Ainsty South Pony Club are holding a reunion party on Saturday, June 15. Taking place at The Barugh, Carlton Husthwaite, Thirsk, other pony club members are welcome to the event which begins at 3.30pm.
There will be a hog roast and dessert plus a drink on arrival with those attending asked to bring their own drinks. Tickets are £15 each though they must be booked and paid for by June 1.
Those interested should send an SAE payable to York And Ainsty Reunion, Barry Hudson, 10 West End Avenue, Appleton Roebuck, York, YO23 7DE.