Ride of my life: Diana Mason

  • Diana recalls her ride on Tramella at the 1954 eventing European Championships

    In 1954 ‘Mel’and I were third at our second Badminton and were duly selected for the European Championships.

    The team (Bertie Hill, Laurence Rook, Frank Weldon, myself and Margaret Hough, who was an individual) flew with the horses to Basle in an antiquated plane. I’d never been in a plane before, and it was all rather hairy.

    When we arrived, the immediate impression was that the cross-country was absolutely enormous. The course was five miles long and the total covered on cross-country day was 22 miles. The second fence was 5ft high and when all the riders complained, it was lowered – by just 4in. After walking the course we were all nervous wrecks.

    The team was in the lead after dressage, and I was at the top of the board, although I had to ride Mel in for 5hr – she was always supercharged.

    The steeplechase was also interesting. Bullfinches and triple rails were included, and as we were about to start I heard that a Swedish horse had broken its leg.

    It rained relentlessly and the going was dreadful. I fell off twice, both times at drop fences when Mel turned sharply sideways to avoid the mud – she always hated muddy patches.

    There was a river crossing, and after the first horse was unable to get out because it was too deep they diverted the horses 25yd downstream. Because Mel was only 15hh she had to swim across!

    But I had a fantastic ride – Mel never put a foot wrong and she did it all carrying 3st of lead. It was great fun, although the most memorable bit was getting to the end still in one piece.

    Though there was nothing like the number of people there are nowadays, when we finished we received a fantastic reception. No one could believe this little horse ridden by a woman could have got round.

    After the show jumping we won the gold medal by miles, with all five British riders in the top seven. Germany was second and no other team completed.

    Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (8 August) where Sidney Bailey talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ on Coolie.

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