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Ben and Emma Hobday photo gallery

After both riders were selected to represent Team GBR in the Strzegom leg of the FEI Nations Cup earlier this year, British Eventing went behind the scenes with the sport’s newest power couple, Ben and Emma Hobday.

Chatting with the couple on a Friday evening after manic preparations for a weekend of competing, it’s apparent that they have an unparalleled thirst for life. Perhaps this comes from Ben’s victorious battle with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015, or perhaps it’s as a result of the incredible support they show each other on a daily basis.  
 
The couple are ruthlessly aspiring to elevate their recent run of achievements to the next level. “It’s not just competing, it’s trying to win,” Ben says, reflecting on their Nations Cup results in July and his long listing for the European Championships this year with his own and Jane Chambers’ Shadow Man II. “The model that we’ve created is starting to work, but it doesn’t come from nothing; you’ve got to put in some hard work, but neither me nor Emma are shy of a bit of graft.”
 
The relatively newlywed couple tied the knot on New Year’s Eve 2016 and the dynamic between them “just works”, according to Emma. 
 
“We complement each other well because in the areas I’m weak, Emma’s strong and vice versa, so it balances itself,” Ben declares. “I’m very ambitious and driven, and it’s very difficult to be like that if someone you’re with isn’t the same. I feel like if something changed tomorrow, Emma would be there with me.”
 
Ben’s diagnosis with the aggressive form of cancer in 2015 was well documented, but less so was the solid foundation of love and support shown to him on a daily basis by his (now) wife. The couple, who had only been together for a year at that point, quickly got into a routine throughout Ben’s six-month ordeal of constant treatment and chemotherapy at Newcastle hospital. 
 
“We moved about six or seven horses up to my mum and dad’s from Cheshire so that I could keep them going,” Emma says. “Every day I’d ride in the morning and then go in and see him until late at night before driving home.” 
 
Emma would record her rides and take them in to Ben to analyse and feed back on. “I even managed to sell a horse from my hospital bed, so that made me feel more useful!” Ben smiles. 
 
It’s apparent that the whole experience is still considerably raw for Ben. “In hindsight I’m a bit shocked by it all because I don’t think I’d have managed without her,” he remarks. “I think to myself, ‘she still looked at me the same way when I was bald and just under nine stone’.” Emma’s response? “It’s life and you just get on with it; it doesn’t mean anything in the long run.” That’s the answer of a true keeper right there. 
 
Over time, Ben and Emma have built up a small and dedicated band of owners who can expect as much honesty from the couple as they do loyalty. “When it comes to owners, I refer to them as partners,” Ben explains. “A lot of our horses are owned partly by them and by us. We like to do that because it shows them that we’re as committed to this investment as they are. Without being brutal about it, you don’t go to the dentist and tell them how to put your teeth in; there’s got to be a balance where there’s trust between both partners that you’re doing the right thing.”
 
The positivity which appears to physically possess them both must come from somewhere? “I’m a different person now [after going into remission] and I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy,” Ben says with palpable emotion. “I get worried sometimes about the little things. I thought I’d be carefree after that and I’m not. But then Emma tells me not to worry and that we’ve got to live life, enjoy it and do the things we want to do.”
 
It’s obvious that behind their ever-improving results is a couple that strives and works hard at every given opportunity to get them where they are today. “I believe that you’ve got to be obsessed by something; if you are, it’ll happen and that’s the same with the horses – even when people don’t believe we’re going to do something, I think we will,” Ben says.
 
A simple recipe that anyone can follow then – a lot of graft, a sprinkling of obsession and “just enjoy life, because otherwise it’s too short.”