Saturday evening, 10 December, saw 320 guests from the eventing community attend the inaugural British Eventing Support Trust (BEST) charity Winter Ball in the prestigious surroundings of The Savoy in London. The charity, which launched in Autumn 2021 with a mission to support the physical and mental health of British Eventing members in addition to supporting research involving safety within the sport, has already proved to be a lifeline to a number of members during their time of need.
BEST Trustee Lexi Hambro who organised the ball, with support from a committee, paid tribute to everyone’s generosity that saw a staggering £194,000 raised for the Charity by saying “I want to firstly acknowledge the tremendous generosity from our Awards Ball sponsors LW Theatres, Lavender Green Flowers, Hambro Sport Horses, Bates Saddles and Cause & Effect. My fellow trustees and the Winter Ball committee members Nicole Brown, Claire Dubowski, Maria Haig, Virginia, Duchess of Roxburghe, Alison Swinburn, Rachel Upton, Bella Webber and Malcom Wharton. Thanks also to the extremely generous donors of the silent auction prizes, Dickie Waygood for his ongoing belief and support of the charity and Julian Portch Photography. Then where and how do I start thanking the generosity of those that bid on the silent auction and the 320 guests who attended on the evening giving with such generosity that I am too overwhelmed to find the words to express my gratitude.
I had said if we raise £10,000 it’s going to go a long way. But when everyone started bidding and the auction lots kept going up and up it was incredible. When I did the figures the next day I had to get my husband to double check them incase I had got something wrong as I couldn’t believe the amount raised. I was totally gobsmacked!”
With some of the key lots reaching extremely high bids such as the Theo Fennell ring, Freddy Paske Art, A chalet in Meribel, Private Gulfstream Jet trip, a Private box during Royal Ascot week. A £20 note signed by Olympic Games gold medal winners brought in a final bid of £1,200 whilst a novelty game of Heads and Tails raised over £3,000 on the night.
Dickie Waygood, World Class Performance Manager for Eventing, said of BEST “The charity is a fantastic initiative. We have to accept that eventing is a high-risk sport and a charity like BEST will look after our athletes in different ways. It might be with physical injuries or recovery or mental health, so it’s only a good thing and I think everyone should really get behind it”.
Chair of the Board of Trustees is five-time Olympian Ian Stark who said at the time of launch “We have witnessed the benefit of such support within many sports, especially racing with the hugely influential Injured Jockeys Fund, and I think it is particularly appropriate and pertinent that we are here to help our own in their times of need.”
Ian’s words and hopes for the charity couldn’t have been any more insightful than when Nicola Wilson took to the stage to pay emotionally charged thanks for the role BEST have played in her rehabilitation since her crashing fall at Badminton earlier this year.
Talking with heartfelt gratitude Nicola said “Without the help of this charity I really do not know what we would have done. When I had the fall I was instantly paralysed from my neck own which stopped me breathing. I was aware when I was lying on the floor that there was somebody next to me, but obviously I ran out of oxygen quite quickly and that was it, lights out for me.
“It’s really fantastic to be able to stand here this evening and to walk. I’m getting emotional because I know how lucky I am to actually be walking when a lot of people in hospital weren’t, and didn’t show signs of walking. Yes, life is difficult for Alastair [Nicola’s husband] and me, and I’m living it in a body which is very weird, but I’m living,and I’m fighting and I’m going to get somewhere, and I’m thrilled to be able to walk. I feel incredibly lucky, there are many people worse off than me and this charity going forward, with other athletes in mind who are struggling with mental illness or physical injuries is amazing. Thank you for all your hard work.”
In summary of the evening Mark Sartori, British Eventing Chair and Trustee of BEST, said “I am staggered at what has been achieved on behalf of the charity and I am so excited for the charity’s future. As the wonderful speeches of Ian Stark, Dickie Waygood, Nicola Wilson and Lexi Hambro mentioned, it is fantastic to be part of an amazing group of people who look after each other in times of need. The Eventing Community has so much to be proud of and BEST is now a vital part of this community.
“Thank you to everyone who has helped deliver such a truly memorable evening, you have firmly established the charity and its future. Every one of our BE members should be grateful for your efforts, passion and generosity.”
For further information on the British Eventing Support Trust visit www.besupporttrust.org.uk
Images from the evening can be found for purchase here, with 50% going to the charity.