An industrial-sized hip flask can be the only explanation for the riders who sign up to an array of equestrian activities that ‘verging on bonkers’ would aptly describe. Watching from the sidelines may well provide a sufficient kick…
1. Dianas of the Chase, Ingarsby Old Hall, Leics
Until February 2013, side saddle steeplechases were dead — one hadn’t been run since 1927. But jewellery designer Philippa Holland and Captain Fred Hopkinson from the Household Cavalry decided that needed to change. Step forward the Dianas of the Chase race.
Get your fix: 29 November 2015 (TBC)
2. Dromin Athlacca Community Ride, Co. Limerick, Ireland
Don’t be fooled by the comforting word “community” in the name — checking the small print on your insurance policy might be the best use of your time. Despite efforts to make the race more rider-friendly — “we’re keen to get everyone safely across the country” one of the organisers tells us — there is no escaping the robust ditches, banks and walls on the 15-mile course covering famous Limerick country.
Get your fix: October 2015 (TBC)
3. Mongol Derby, Mongolia
Anything that claims to be the “longest and toughest horse race in the world” is unlikely to show your body a good time. “This is no guided tour, or pony trek,” declare the organisers. “There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. That’s the whole point. It’s just you, your team of horses and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. And possibly a GPS.”
Get your fix: 2-16 August 2015
4. Velka Pardubicka, Pardubice, Czech Republic
George Williamson was the last jockey to win both the Grand National and the Czech Republic’s answer to our iconic race, the Velka Pardubicka. And that was in1899 — which gives an indication of what we’re dealing with here. The gruelling four-and-a-quarter-mile race features the terrifying Taxis Ditch — a towering hedge with a ditch on landing, which allegedly dwarfs Becher’s Brook.
Get your fix: 11 October 2015
5. Skijoring, St Moritz, Switzerland
It would be hard to make up a stranger equestrian discipline than skijoring — horses towing “jockeys” behind them on skis for 2,700m across 60cm thick ice, with speeds reaching up to 50 kilometres per hour. The start of the race is where things can get particularly precarious — tangled reins and horses setting off in different directions is not unheard of. In 1965, not a single skier succeeded in crossing the finishing line. Efforts have since been made to make the sport safer — coloured skis are now compulsory so that horses can see them in the snow and competitors undergo stringent testing in the run-up to the event. Nonetheless, strength, athleticism, balance, toughness — and an element of luck — are crucial to succeed.
Get your fix: 8, 15 and 22 February 2015
6. The Golden Button Challenge, Longdon Marsh, Glos
If hurling yourself over 28 natural obstacles across three miles of Ledbury Hunt country, styled on an original steeplechase, is your idea of a good day out — you’re in luck. After taking a break from the calendar, the race is back in action. The Golden Buttons up for grabs include those for the first veteran, first non-thoroughbred and for the first military person.
Get your fix: 14 February 2015
Don’t miss the adrenaline special in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (29 January 2015), where we find out how to manage your adrenaline and take a look at the facts and figures that show just how fast and furious horse sport is