As the hunting season heads towards its close, there is a feeling of anticipation in the air. While some are pouring over the eventing rule book and learning dressage tests, there are also groups of friends planning tactics and co-ordinating hat silks, base layers and pom-poms ahead of the spring team chasing season.
Fast, furious and perhaps not for the faint-hearted, team chasing has brought together myself and two friends in a sport that allows that competitive edge, without the demands of other disciplines.
Now, this is when we have to admit we aren’t up there with the big boys jumping those humongous open hedges, but we — team Forelock and Fully Loaded — would love you to follow our highs and lows, our thrills and hopefully not too many spills this season. We will be aiming to move up from the comfort zone of novice tracks to the rather more daunting intermediates, all in the name of mud-splattered fun.
In order to take part in team chasing, your horse needs to be fit and be able to jump — the rest is about having a blast. Over the winter we have found a fantastic team sponsor from local country store, Forelock and Load. Social media followers named our team and we had a total giggle doing a photo shoot in our newly embroidered team colours.
Our team is lead by Kerrie Aschettino and her super horse Harty. Kerrie spends her long days teaching the young and old of Peterborough to drive — the patience she shows to her customers is never replicated on the team chase course. She is brilliant at cracking on, telling you to man-up and just kick. Hunting all season with the Fitzwilliam, there hasn’t yet been a hedge the pair haven’t tackled.
Kerrie’s horse Harty Quay (pictured below) is a handsome ex-chaser with more letters in his form than placings, but he has found his trip with team chasing and takes the lead like a total pro. He unfairly always looks smashing over a fence and always gets the best picture of the team. He’s a proper sort that just loves any attention.
Christie Eaton-Evans lives in Newmarket with her husband Tom and two children Daisy and Fred. They have Tom’s ex-racehorse, a Shetland pony called Harry and team chaser Rosie O’Grady — or Alice as we know her. Alice is the smallest of the team, but don’t ever tell her that (she thinks she is one of the lads).
Christie is a freelance groom and works for Newmarket Equine Hospital at the Tattersalls sales — she’s also marvellous at baking a really good cake! Before last year, Christie had never team chased before, and will happily admit to having some problems with confidence. Uncomfortable with doing a cross-country course by herself, she thought team chasing was the way forward. It was a make or break moment and fortunately for us she was hooked from the first — despite having absolutely no control!
And then there is me, Sophie Mathew, fundraising executive at Racing Welfare and currently working on a fantastic fundraising challenge where Richard Farquhar is ‘Walking the Courses’ www.walkingthecourses.com — walking some 2,750 miles in aid of both Pancreatic Cancer UK and Racing Welfare. It’s going to take him more than 13 months, walking to and from all 60 mainland racecourses, connecting them on foot in what will eventually be an unbroken chain.
I am super busy coordinating groups of volunteers for fundraising while keeping my horse of a lifetime, Curiositykilledthecat aka Kitkat fit, and more problematically, clean — he’s a total bog pony, but fills me with confidence out hunting and team chasing. An ex-eventer of Alex Liddle’s, he is fantastic at taking total charge of the situation and lets me passenger my way around the course.
The season kicks off on 15 March at Taunton Vale in Somerset, but it’s a bit too far for us so we are heading to the Links schooling ground in Newmarket for a spin over some fences before our season debut at Worcester on 22 March. Fingers crossed we will make it up to intermediate by the end of this season. We hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.