VIDEO: Equestrian gymnastics of a cured hippophobic

Borders based Riding for the Disabled Groups are over £2000 better off thanks to the derring-do antics of Frances Benton.

For most of her life Frances successfully hid her fear of horses but this time last year she finally admitted it and was given a challenge - to let Margaret Morgan of the Berwickshire RDA help her over her fear and at the same time raise money for the RDA. But that challenge went a step further and on Friday Frances could be seen standing on 17.2 hand Charlie Brown as he cantered around the RDA school.

(left to right) Lucy Johnston-Smith, Margaret Morgan, Rebecca Hewit, Stacey MacPherson infront of Frances Benton being VERY relaxed on Charlie Brown (17.2 and 16 yrs) after completing her challenge

(left to right) Lucy Johnston-Smith, Margaret Morgan, Rebecca Hewit, Stacey MacPherson infront of Frances Benton being VERY relaxed on Charlie Brown (17.2 and 16 yrs) after completing her challenge

Not for Frances a mere trot around the RDA school at Reston to show she has faced up to her 55 year fear of horses - hippophobia.

Despite the fact that on her first trip to the Berwickshire RDA school Frances struggled to even get through the door into the riding school, the magic and patience of Margaret Morgan soon had her standing next to an RDA horse - even if that first time Frances was doing so in floods of tears.

Frances’s fear of horses started at the age of four when a visit to the nearby police stables almost ended in disaster when she slid off the neck of a police horse and landed between its two front hooves. She fainted with fear and has lived with that fear ever since.

Over the past year Frances, who now lives in France, has called in at Reston for riding lessons with Margaret, Lucy Johnston-Smith and Rebecca Hewit, whenever she’s been in the UK. She moved on from standing and walking beside a horse, to riding and then came the circus tricks of equestrian vaulting.

A definite advantage for Frances when it came to performing stunts on the back of a horse was that in a former life she had done tight rope walking! This gave her a natural sense of balance and the RDA staff were amazed at the progress she was able to make in such a short space of time.

Progress stuttered slightly this summer when the gentle giant she had been riding, Guinness, had to be put down. The only option if Frances was to continue was to really face her nemesis - Charlie Brown, a large brown horse like the police horse she fell off.

Another hurdle over as she got used to Charlie Brown, it was a very focused Frances who carried out a series of vaulting manoeuvres last Friday afternoon before completing the ultimate challenge - standing on Charlie Brown with vaulter Stacey McPherson riding with her to help her up into position.

Has Frances conquered her fear? Not completely but thanks to the RDA group at Reston it’s under control.