Alison Nicholson, a competitor in the 70cm Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships at Keysoe in Bedfordshire, was proud to self-award the unofficial prize of being one of the steadiest around the cross-country track yesterday (28 May).

“I’ve come here purely to have a nice time and I didn’t want to ride competitively around the cross-country course — I just wanted to have a go at the fences,” says Alison, who was riding her 10-year-old, 14.3hh dun Connemara, Tullybridge (or Tully as she is known at home.). “I had no intention of going fast and even let Tully stop for a drink in the water jump halfway round.”

Alison, who is a retired middle school headteacher, and Tully incurred 42.2 time-faults across country.

“I’ve treated this event very much as a holiday but with a bit of riding each day, rather than a competition,” explains Alison, who hails from Suffolk. “I did full on work for 30 years and now I’m just enjoying my horse.”

Alison has owned Tully for 18 months.

“I had told all of my friends that I wanted to buy a dun Connemara that was a lovely horse to have around. I found Tully stabled next to me at a horse camp and hounded her owner until she let me buy her,” says Alison. “At first she was very overweight — I managed to get her to lose 70kg and it completely transformed her.”

Alison describes Tully as “versatile and amenable to new things” but that she isn’t completely straightforward.

“She’s not always push button if she’s unsure of something, but she can be persuaded,” said Alison.

Read the full report from the Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships in H&H — on sale Thursday, 8 June