Once the truth was out that Frances Benton was afraid of horses, a stalwart of the Berwickshire Riding for the Disabled Group came riding to the rescue.
After conquering her 55-year fear, Frances is now set to take on the challenge of becoming an equestrian vaulter next week.
As former director of The Maltings Theatre, champion of charity fundraising, and marketing director of a family business, Frances is a confident, larger than life, character. Few would have guessed that she had a paralysing fear of horses.
It stems from an incident when in her childhood. A family outing to visit police stables near their home almost disaster when four-year -old Frances fell off a horse.
“The policeman put me on the horse, and because I was so tiny he put me on the neck and said to hold onto the mane,” Frances remembered. “But I remember thinking I can’t hold on to the horse’s hair because I might hurt it, so I made a fist around the mane. The policeman thought I was holding on but I didn’t have hold.
“When he let go I slid off. The horse stepped over me and I was lying face upwards with both front hooves on either side of my head. I have an undying memory of the horse tossing its head. I don’t remember anything else. I fainted with fright.”
More than 50 years on, and having avoided horses all her life, Frances found herself explaining her fear to her friend, RDA dressage rider, Barbara Berkowitz, and Margaret Morgan, a stalwart of the Berwickshire Riding for the Disabled Group. She was persuaded that Margaret could help.
Over the past year Frances, who now lives in France, has stopped in Reston for riding lessons with Margaret every time she has visited the UK. Next week, on Friday, November 8, she will attempt to stand on a cantering horse – raising money for the RDA charity.
“It has been the most extraordinary journey – frightening, revealing and amazing,” said Frances. “Margaret is the most incredible person. What she does is inspirational. If she can get an able bodied middle aged women to overcome such fear, imagine what she can do to help people with far more complex issues.”
Barbara is hosting an RDA charity evening in her home at Withou, Market Square, Coldstream, when Frances will talk about her experience. There are only 30 tickets at £10 each.