Resilient Rory rises to the top

The Hickstead crowd was delighted to see Rory Gilsenan win today's Charles Owen Supreme Working Hunter Championship 

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Bicester-based Irishman Rory Gilsenan took the spoils in today’s Charles Owen Supreme Working Hunter Championship, riding Atlantic Slim.

Gilsenan’s victory isn’t just a testament to his positivity and tenacity, but his extensive support team, too. “All of our team and surrounding friends have been fantastic. Nobody could survive without it. We’re all so supportive of each other – I jumped my round and then ran down to warm up four other people. It helps everyone to feel positive.”

At the tail end of last year, Gilsenan was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, and though his chemotherapy treatments and MRIs are ongoing, he’s determined not to let the setback stop him from enjoying his craft.

I’m lucky the problem I have hasn’t knocked me back. I have the best family in the whole of England looking after me, which is incredible. And I haven’t taken one painkiller since I was discharged in December – not one thing. I’ve had the radiotherapy, obviously, and I’m still on the chemo, and I have another MRI scan next week.”

Atlantic Slim has been part of Gilsenan’s string in one way or another since he was a five-year-old, having originally bought him from Bumble Thomas. The horse is now owned by the Collins family from Yorkshire. "I got to ride him at the Horse of the Year Show and he won there, which was incredible. Then he came back again in March, and since then he’s won three classes and been second four times, including a second at the Derby meeting. He’s a king of a horse – if you point him at anything he’d jump it, or certainly do his very best. He’s fabulous.”

For Gilsenan, who has notched up an enviable number of appearances in the sport’s most prestigious show rings, riding in the iconic Longines International Arena hasn’t lost any of its magic.

“The horse loves the crowd, and he can gallop real well. It’s the most incredible ring to ride around, it really is – we obviously watch it on telly a lot, and for us to get in there is just a slice of heaven.”

Gilsenan keeps looking on the bright side, an approach that serves him well. “I’m just lucky. We’ve met some lovely people, too, and they’ve struggled – but I try to keep my outlook positive. God loves a trier.”

Rory took home the Rocky IV Trophy, which was donated by prolific showing rider Louise Bell. Louise has won many working hunter titles here at Hickstead, but a few years ago she switched sport to dressage. Today she made history by becoming the first rider to win the international Grand Prix at Dressage at Hickstead on a former Hickstead working hunter champion, Into the Blue.  

The Saracen Horse Feeds Supreme Riding Horse Championship went to Allister Hood and Lady Tyrell's Chainmail, a striking palomino. The pair are now qualified for Sunday's British Horse Society Supreme Horse Championship, which Allister has won seven times. 

For today's results, click here

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