Former racehorse trainer Rhona Elliot has raised £80,000 for the local branch of the MS Society.
And last month the MS Borders Racing Club she founded nine years ago celebrated another win, when Brijomi Queen triumphed at Kelso on Valentine’s Day.
The six-year-old mare heads for Aintree next month.
In her new home near Jedburgh, Rhona, who runs the syndicate, said: “I enjoy it, I’ve never been an idle person, I do the syndicate to raise awareness of MS and I do fundraising for the MS Society Borders branch.
“I think also it has shown people that disabled people can do other things and there’s another life for them.”
Rhona’s fundraisers have included a fashion show, annual quizzes at Kelso racecourse, an Evening Line (like the television programme, The Morning Line), supper parties, a supporters’ St Cuthberts Way walk and, last year, the ‘Secret Art’ sales at various racecourses around the country, when Rhona asked artists and others in racing to donate small original paintings, with purchasers only finding out who painted them after they’d bought.
Rhona said: “I’m trying to do something to pay back. They (the society) do a sterling job and they don’t have a tremendous amount of support.
“You don’t really hear of many people raising money for MS because it’s not glamorous, there isn’t any treatment and there is no cure, but people have it for a very long time so you get a lot of long-term support.”
The former point-to-point jockey has lived with MS for over 20 years, but kept it a secret from everyone except her husband Peter for the first 12 years.
She later gained her licence to train racehorses at the couple’s then home in the Cheviot hills, The Yett, near Kelso.
“I wanted to train and thought if I got my licence I could get a syndicate together to raise awareness of MS too, “ she said.
It was a fairytale beginning for members back in 2004, for their first horse Diamond Mick, who had never won before, responded to Rhona’s training and romped home to win at Kelso in the syndicate’s first race, with Rose Dobbin his jockey.
Rhona trained the club’s horses before her MS forced her to stop in 2007.
The syndicate now has three horses in training, two with Nicky Richards at Greystoke, near Penrith and one with Diamond Mick’s old jockey, Rose at Hazelrigg Racing, Chatton in Northumberland.
There have a been wins and placings, outings, stable visits, trips to Ireland and the successful campaign to get an MS nurse for the Borders (one of the syndicate’s horses was called ‘Where’s the Nurse’) along the way.
Syndicate members pay just £400 a year: “It’s value for money: I do everything on a shoestring and people are very kind to me, “ said Rhona.
“I enjoy it and I enjoy people having fun. Different people do it for different reasons, some to help me, some because it’s the cheapest way to have a racehorse, some because they are local and a lot of people have connections with MS.”
The club has also brought about an MS group going Riding for the Disabled (RDA): “It brings people out and they speak about it and it gives people a lot more awareness,” said Rhona.
And of the RDA group, she said: “There’s a camaraderie and you learn more from speaking to people about what’s good and new ideas, on everything, from equipment to medication, homoeopathy.”
Anyone interested in joining the syndicate can contact Rhona on 01835 864111 or at email@example.com