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25 July 2022

Today we hear from Olivia Kimber, the first rider with multiple sclerosis to take on the challenge of the Markel Magnolia Cup at Goodwood, run this year in support of The Brilliant Breakfast initiative in aid of The Prince’s Trust

Day to day I work as a professional dance teacher, currently teaching for a children’s ballet school, and as a dancer for an entertainment company. My first experience of racing was when I was just three-weeks old, attending Glorious Goodwood in my pram! The love of racing runs through my family, and I attend Goodwood regularly. My interest in horses in general has just grown over the years, with me and my family purchasing our first racehorse nine years ago. We have been extremely lucky as a family with owning such amazing horses. 

Diagnosis led me to taking up challenge

I would watch the Magnolia Cup – the renowned charity event at Goodwood for female riders – every year and always say ‘I would love to do this!’ In November 2021, after a whole month of experiencing some odd symptoms, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This was a huge shock and my life changed immediately. Once the shock of the diagnosis calmed down, I thought I would try and give myself a challenge/goal to keep my spirits up, and this is how the application for the Magnolia Cup came about! I thought ‘why not’ and if I don’t do it now, I may never get the chance to do it again. 

I was completely gobsmacked when I had a ‘phone call to say I had been chosen to ride in the race. This was my chance to prove not only to myself but to others that you can still achieve goals while having a lifelong condition/disability. I hope that I can inspire and help others with the same or similar conditions to not give up! Even with the smallest of goals. 

Riding for a great cause

The Magnolia Cup raises money for an incredible charity each year, and this year we are supporting The Brilliant Breakfast initiative in aid of The Prince’s Trust. They are an incredible charity. The Brilliant Breakfast is a nationwide, fundraising event, run annually for a week in October. It brings together friends, family and colleagues over breakfast, to raise money for young women on The Prince’s Trust programmes across the UK. The money raised will help women aged between 11-30 who face disadvantage and adversity to build their own futures through employment, education and training.

Tough training regime 

I am riding out for Eve Johnson Houghton, who also trains my family’s horses. Twice a week I drive an hour and 15 minutes each way to ride out and have had many coaching sessions with leading professionals in the industry. Training to ride in a race is not for the faint hearted and I have had a couple of issues trying to push my body while dealing with a condition like MS. But with the help of some amazing people, I have come out the other side and feel ready to race on Thursday 28th July! I’ve been so lucky to ride such a variety of horses in training and I will be forever grateful for this incredible experience. Being an owner, I have now seen the other side of racing and my respect for the jockeys and work riders has increased tremendously.

To win a race would be the ultimate dream come true, however, for me it’s just being able to compete. I just want to start and finish the race with a big smile on my face. Whether I win, place or come last, I have been able to do something that no other female with MS has been able to do yet, and that will always be my win. 

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