Embattled showing rider receives special Hickstead award

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Rory Gilsenan competing at the Longines Royal International Horse Show 2019.
Rory Gilsenan competing at the Longines Royal International Horse Show 2019. © Emily Gailey

A showing producer battling a major health issue has been announced the winner of a special award at Hickstead’s Showtime Ball.

Oxfordshire-based Rory Gilsenan completed the HOYS/Hickstead double by winning the Charles Owen Supreme Working Hunter title at the Longines Royal International Horse Show in July, while battling an aggressive brain tumour. He was announced as the recipient of the Roger Stack Award, presented in honour of Hickstead’s former Showing director who died in 2016. It is given in recognition of the standout showing performance of the season.

The popular Irishman had celebrated winning his first Working Hunter title at the Horse of the Year Show in October 2018, when his diagnosis came just a few weeks later. Following months of arduous chemotherapy treatment, Gilsenan showed his tenacity by returning to the saddle in time to win the championship at Hickstead.

Following a period of remission, the tumour returned and Gilsenan has recently undergone another operation. He was not able to attend the ball in person, but his close friend Lee Middleton from Equine America accepted the award on Gilsenan’s behalf on November 16.

A fundraiser for Rory Gilsenan has been started by Equine America, a British-based supplement manufacturer.
A fundraiser for Rory Gilsenan has been started by Equine America, a British-based supplement manufacturer. © Equine America

“We cannot think of a more deserving winner of the Roger Stack Award than Rory, who spent five years working for Roger at the start of his career,” said Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “Rory’s performance this summer with Atlantic Slim was pure perfection, especially considering how he beat the odds just to compete at Hickstead, let alone pick up one of the most coveted championship titles of all.”

Now in its fifth year, Hickstead’s annual Showtime Ball hosted about 130 members of the showing community gather to celebrate the end of another successful season. Profits from the Ball are put towards improving the showing facilities at the showground, with a total of £9150 raised during the fundraising auction.

This year, a decision was made on the night to put the £2000 proceeds from the raffle towards the #RootingforRory fund, which has been started to help Gilsenan during his treatment.

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