Ponies, poles and PH

Chesterwood Show has raised over £20,000 during the 14 years it has taken place, with organiser Suzie Pigg taking the opportunity to raise awareness in support of her sister too.

Every September, a large field in Northumberland is filled with poles, ponies, and a dedicated team of people determined to make a difference.

Chesterwood Show, which takes place in Hexham, sees young riders take part in showjumping competitions and games with the aim of raising money and promoting awareness of PH.

The event is the brainchild of Suzie Pigg, whose sister Sheena Robinson was diagnosed with the condition in October 2002. It has been held annually since 2004, with the only exception of 2018 – when plans were halted at the last minute due to Sheena undergoing a double lung transplant.

The show in September 2019 boosted total fundraising to almost £21,000 – but Sheena said it’s not just about the pounds. “It’s more about raising awareness than money”, she explained. “It’s a different way for people to know what PH is. It took quite a long time for me to be diagnosed, so the more people that talk about it the better. I think because you look well, people don’t understand that it can be quite a debilitating disease. “

Sisters Suzie (left) and Sheena (right)

Each show is supported by an army of sponsors and volunteers, including 2019 supporters AW Jenkinson Forest Products, Carrs Billington Agriculture and High Plains Livery and Equestrian Centre.

The event always ends with a prize presentation and a speech by Sheena, where she talks about her pulmonary hypertension.  Supporters Jackie and Josie Brown continue the annual tradition of donating a handmade jump – which is usually awarded to a child who has fallen off but not cried, shown patience with a naughty pony, or improved their riding throughout the day.

 “It’s about people coming and having a go and enjoying it, rather than being overly competitive”, said Sheena. “As well as the jumping competitions we have pony games that are all about having a laugh –we do have a few tumbles, but that’s par for the course when you’ve got kids and ponies!”

The show is held at Chesterwood Farm, owned by Suzie’s husband. Money is raised through entry fees and the selling of cakes, sandwiches and quiches – which are all donated by supporters.

Suzie said: “Everyone gives their time for free to help with the show. We have a lot of good friends and family and we get local businesses that we know to sponsor the classes, which covers the cost of prizes. It’s hard work, but everyone mucks in. We’ll keep going with the shows as long as people keep coming.”

As well as looking forward to future events, the sisters have fond memories of those gone by.

 “I think all of the shows are special; there’s always something that makes them memorable”, said Sheena.  “I remember one year, my cousin’s daughter entered one of the pony classes on her little Shetland. My brother-in-law was leading her, and he’s very competitive, so when Emily fell off right at the start, he didn’t even realise and carried on regardless – leading a pony with no rider! We still laugh about that now.”