Just reward for dedicated Olivia
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Top riders, star equines and a much-loved course-builder were among those honoured in a star-studded ceremony at Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday 4 December, as the winners of the Horse & Hound Awards in partnership with NAF were revealed. British Dressage member Olivia Robertson took one of the star awards of the evening, the Prime Stables Volunteer of the Year trophy.
Based in the South West region, Olivia is a hard working volunteer BD Youth Ambassador, a role which requires mentoring younger members, supporting the Regional Rep with training and activities as well as helping drive membership and support of BD. A few years ago, Olivia was also an essential part in establishing the Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, aged just 19.
Olivia is proof of the value of volunteering and what it means to ‘give something back’. She’s helped make her region’s BD Youth programme one of the most successful – and the most fun – through helping other young members to get the full benefit and make friends for life.
After the evening, Olivia told us; “Volunteering has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s so rewarding for a variety of reasons and I wouldn’t change the opportunities it’s given me for the world. The skills you learn are invaluable and as a BD Youth Ambassador, it’s been a real joy to watch our South West members grow as riders and friends.
“When I joined BD Youth (was BYRDS at the time), I was really shy and didn’t have the confidence to try for teams as I didn’t know anyone. As soon as the ambassador’s role became available two years ago, I just knew I needed to apply and make sure that no one else ever felt like that again. To be able to play a small part in nurturing our young riders talent, whilst also encouraging them to make 2friends and most importantly enjoy themselves above anything, is something that I truly love to do.
If I can in some way give the younger members, and more mature members too, the same amazing experience I’ve had in BD Youth, then that’s all I can wish for. I’m very grateful for the support that the South West Committee have shown me over the years and this award is definitely for all of us. I’m just a small cog in a big wheel!”
We also asked Olivia about her experience with the Willberry Charity; “Before I started my ambassador’s role, I helped Hannah Francis set up Hannahs Willberry Wonder Pony when I was 19. Growing up, Hannah and I were in Pony Clubs in the same area and on hearing about her diagnosis, I knew there was something I could do to help in some way. I approached her on social media as we actually hadn’t ever talked in person, and asked if she’d be happy if I set up a website and Facebook page, to sell some wristbands from.
“With previous fundraising experience for teenage cancer trust, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to raise lots to support Hannah with her physio therapy and wig etc. From that day onwards, the charity just grew and grew. I organised the first Willberry Wonder Ball a year later which raised £25,000 in one evening and also attended amazing events with Hannah including Ed Sheeran’s red carpet film premier.
“It became a huge part of my life and from it all, I gained an incredibly inspirational best friend who showed everyone that nothing should stop you chasing your dreams. Hannah taught me so much and allowed me to gain skills which I’ve been able to transfer to the ambassador’s role. Above all, the money raised really has changed so many lives and I know Hannah would be insanely proud of what the charity is achieving now."
BD Youth Development Co-ordinator Hannah James commented; “We’re delighted that Olivia has been recognised by Horse & Hound, and the equestrian public, in this way. Olivia’s selfless dedication to the sport and willingness to support others as a volunteer is amazing. The BD Youth Ambassador programme is an initiative we’re proud of and Olivia is testament to its value and the life skills it helps develop. Olivia, on behalf of BD, I can say we’re all very proud of you and your achievement – keep it up!”
Winners at the 2019 Horse & Hound Awards in partnership with NAF:
• Horse & Hound Lifetime Achievement Award: Bob Ellis
• Ceris Burns Equestrian Professional Rider of the Year: Piggy French
• Horseware Horse of the Year: Vanir Kamira
• Balanced Horse Feeds Pony of the Year: Smurf
• Horserail Moment of the Year: Pippa Funnell’s Burghley victory
• Absorbine Inspiration of the Year: Joe Stockdale
• NAF Five Star Groom of the Year: Amy Phillips
• Pikeur Amateur Rider of the Year: Adam Harvey
• Saracen Young Rider of the Year: Finn Healy
• Prime Stables Volunteer of the Year: Olivia Robertson
• Horse Dialog Club of the Year: Royal Artillery Equestrian Centre Thorney Island
Photo © Peter Nixon/Horse & Hound