The Prince of Wales recalls his ride in the Clun Handicap Steeplechase for amateur riders at Ludlow in 1980
Allibar was just the right sort for me, a real schoolmaster who took a proper hold. You didn’t have to kick him into fences, you only had to sit against him and he just went brilliantly. That horse taught me so much.
On the day of the race I remember being incredibly nervous. Anyway, we all lined up and my old horse went off like a lamp lighter. We led all the way round the first circuit, I just sat against him and he pinged every single fence brilliantly. It was a marvellous sensation.
I thought that I was going quite fast enough, but, as we were coming round on the second circuit, suddenly half the field passed me. I thought: ‘Hang on half a minute, how am I going to go as fast as that?’ I had to really start motoring to catch them.
Entering the home straight my old Allibar seemed to have a lot to give still, so I pushed on, we managed to catch up and I felt I was going to overtake the leader [Keith Reveley on Hello Louis], if only we had had a little bit more.
I didn’t know what I was doing of course, it was only my second race but at least I came second. It was incredibly exciting, and I shall never forget that sense of supreme elation and triumph at having got round and survived.
I loved that old horse, but the tragedy was that it was the only race that I had on him.
Shortly after Ludlow, I was riding him at exercise,and we galloped up the Downs. When we got to the top, he started staggering about and everybody said ‘Get off!’ Then – I could hardly bear it – he careered about, fell over and I found myself cradling his head while the life ebbed out of him. That was really an awful moment.
He was a marvellous old horse, and on that day at Ludlow he truly gave me the ride of a lifetime.
Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (6 June) where Kirsty Mepham talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the Sydney Olympics on Dikkiloo.
Click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.
Read more racing “ride of my life” stories: