Horse of a lifetime: Jackie Taylor and Sally

  • Jackie Taylor, her breeder, owner and rider, whose name is synonymous with the foremost in endurance, says: “Sally would go on giving until she died for me.”

    This 15.2hh mare, who is by a Trakehner and out of an Anglo Arab, has been up and down three mountains, each around 1,000ft, in one day. She has crossed rivers and trod surefootedly down a scree mountain goat path, with a sheer drop to the outside, forcing Jackie to focus on positive thoughts to drive away the rising fear in herstomach.

    It is a scenario well-known to endurance aficionados, but few have achieved as much as Jackie Taylor, who worked in Woolworths on Saturdays to buy her first pony, and the mare she named Sally, because she did not want anything fussy or long-winded.

    Jackie, 43 and a slim 5ft 9in, lives near Birmingham with her partner, farrier Peter Dyas-Harrold.

    Sally is the sort you have to ask, not tell, but sharp enough to do a course only once for her to remember the route the following year.

    At least half a dozen times Jackie has been steering straight ahead and had the mare turn a sharp bend, to save them from making an error.

    The ace up this particular partnership’s sleeve, though, has always been Sally’s seemingly lazy, economical trot, which she can maintain mile after mile in an unbroken rhythm.Jackie, a former British team member, can hear others cantering behind them as Sally, with 4,000 competition miles and 16,000 training miles on the clock, keeps trotting doggedly on.

    She changes gear, though, in a racing finish and this courageous mare will fight like a trapped tiger to stay in front. That is the reason why Jackie retired her .

    “It would have been unfair to keep running her, knowing how she would keep going until she went lame or dropped. She has earned her day in the sun and retired fit and healthy.”

    It was a career marked by glittering highs, one awful low, a few worries and a lot of laughter. The laughter came every time Sally lined up for the start of an endurance ride, when she excitedly waved a front leg in the air and smacked her lips in unison.

    The worries came over the mare’s claustrophobia, which meant that the pilot of the plane carrying her tothe Middle East was going to put down at Toulouse and offload her, because of her panic attack. It also meant she needed the whole trailer or two compartments of a lorry to travel comfortably.

    However, the blot in Sally’s competition copybookcame when she and her rider were left out of the team for the 1994 World Championships. Was it because Jackie and Peter were outspoken and liked to do things their own way? Jackie still cannot understand why she received a letter saying there were factors which made her and her golden horse unacceptable.

    “Sally was at her peak,” says Jackie, still rankled. “She was unassailable and could so easily have been world champion.”

    You may like...