The adventures of Hero, Heidi and Hobday: ‘if I didn’t have a horse how many exotic holidays to Bali could I have gone on?’

  • Heidi has been on such a high since winning the intermediate at Floors Castle. She knows she’s done good as everyone on the Hobday yard is lavishing her with treats and cuddles. It’s actually a bit exhausting as she doesn’t dare put her head in the stable for a second in case she misses out on some attention.

    When she’s not getting human love then Mulry (Ben’s four-star horse) is covering her in kisses. He is the nicest horse she has ever met. It is definitely love. They’ve tried to persuade Ben that really they should be in the same stable and that there is plenty of room but he’s not having any of it. Life is fairly perfect; the only boring bit is that they haven’t been out to a competition for two whole weeks. All the horses are going a bit stir crazy, especially Heidi who loves the excitement of being woken up in the middle of the night with lights and action.

    Still, she’s been doing lots of training with Ben in his snazzy new arena so something must be afoot. Meanwhile Ben has been issuing me (Hero) with lots of instructions that always sound easy but never are. This week’s task was getting an FEI number. I was a bit confused as I thought I’d done that when I rang BE (British Eventing) to register Heidi for her first international competition (which only cost £17 — a bargain, I thought). However, it soon became apparent this was just the first part of the process and Heidi actually needed a swanky new FEI cover to go over her green Welsh Pony and Cob passport. The first thing to do was get her microchip number but after a great deal of searching through papers I admitted defeat and rang Heidi’s breeder, Sarah, only to discover — oops! — Heidi didn’t actually have one. She was born in June 2009, a few weeks before the legislation requiring all horses and ponies to be microchipped changed, so Sarah swiftly ordered the passport to avoid extra costs.

    I sent an SOS message to Ben asking him to get the vet back ASAP. A few days later Heidi had been chipped and I called BE with the relevant number and was asked for a £211 fee! How can an FEI passport cost that much? It must be the most expensive passport ever. I checked and a Turkish one is £165, an Australian one £135, and British a mere snip at £72.50.

    Tattersalls International Horse Trials (Tatts) costs are totting up; entry fee = £503.41 (on the website it’s €575.00, so the exchange rate must be dire), BE/FEI costs, vet callout, microchip, Heidi-share travel costs, my travel costs — it will be over £1,000… I had one of those ‘if I didn’t have a horse how many exotic holidays to Bali could I have gone on?’ moments. I had been trying to wriggle out of doing a documentary in July but think I’m going to need to commit, as I’m desperate for funds. My summer is looking like back-to-back work now. First I’m doing a bit of modelling, then playing Sybil in Picture of Dorian Gray; next up is my role as Amy in the mini-series, and in between I’m now doing a documentary. All I dream about is being able to hang out with my horse, Heidi, and gallop along beaches.

    Still, it doesn’t matter because Heidi is thrilled. She couldn’t quite believe it when Ben came into her stable saying she’d got a letter. The postman had never bought her anything before so she did her impatient head-butting thing, which knocked the pristine envelope on to the mucky floor. She looked down and sure enough her name, Aberllanerch High Tide, was there in beautiful writing. Ben grabbed it back while telling her she was off on holiday and was going to catch a boat to Ireland. As he pulled out a shiny purple booklet he told her that she was a pro now with an FEI passport and was about to do her first international competition.


    Monday 28 May came round in a jiffy and Heidi was on her way from Northumberland. She dozed most of the journey but suddenly the fields she was passing looked familiar. She kept her eyes peeled and sure enough she could make out Mostyn Farm Ride in the distance and just below was the farm where she was born. She started neighing furiously, screeching for Ben to STOP PLEASE, PLEASE STOP. She wanted to break out, gallop down the gentle hill and to go home, just for a day.

    Continued below…

    She whinnied for her mum Alleycat to still be alive and to snuggle against her one last time. She remembered the stories of how her mum hit on bad times and ended up being sold off to the meat man at Beeston when suddenly this soft Welsh voice spoke across the crowd and offered a little more. Alleycat came to live with Sarah Davies, the only person she trusted in the world. Sarah used to ride some ponies for a lady near Mold who had a Welsh Cob stallion and she let Alleycat run with him one summer and the result was her one and only foal Heidi.

    Heidi as a foal

    As Heidi rattled around in the lorry along the A55 she thought about her life and all the exciting things she was doing. She suddenly longed just to be that little foal, snuggled up next to her mum.


    The other horses tried to distract Heidi and told her she’d love Ireland. After a bit of hay she felt better and everyone — humans and horses — got very excited when they arrived at Holyhead. The boat ride was funny as the lorry lolled from side to side. Soon after they were at Tatts and Heidi had never seen so many smart horses in her whole life even the people were wearing fancy hats.

    The only confusing part was that when she was plaited and already to start dressage Ben arrived in city clothes. He then ran alongside her while she trotted and everyone clapped. These Irish must be very easy to please, she thought.

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