There’s nothing sweeter than the sound of an airhostess welcoming you back to the West Country when your easyJet plane lands at Bristol airport. Or boarding a First Great Western train to the land of Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury Tor.
But if you’ve spent time with horses in the West Country, there’s a whole lot more to love about the home of The Wurzels and Exmoor ponies.
1. Mendip Farmers’ point-to-point
An outwear company is yet to design a coat that will protect you from the wind at Ston Easton during the Mendip Farmers’ point-to-point. You’re unlikely to be able to get out of your car because the rain will be horizontal — but you wouldn’t miss it for the world.
2. Wincanton racecourse
Something’s gone seriously awry with your Christmas plans if you’re not at Wincanton on Boxing Day. And if you can muscle your way into a box to thaw out with a cup of tea, then it’s a Christmas to remember.
3. Mole Valley Farmers
Mole Valley Farmers is where you spent all your pocket money on things you did — and mostly didn’t — really need for your pony as a child. Shavings or show jackets, wooden poles or water troughs — MVF never let you down.
4. The Wurzels
The Wurzels’ 1976 number one hit “Combine Harvester” is enough to get any Pony Club disco started. And everyone knows the words (Cuz I got a brand new combine harvester/ An’ I’ll give you the key/ Come on now let’s get together/ In perfect harmony…).
Home-grown cider means that every hunt ball you’ve ever been to is a hazy blur.
Brean beach near Weston-Super-Mare is where you find out pretty quickly what your horse thinks of the seaside.
“She’s well lush” is an appropriate way to describe a nice moving mare with good conformation. And if you’re feeling enthusiastic “gurt” (West Country for ‘very’) can be added.
8. Proper job
“Proper job” is about as good as compliments get if you have a nice clear round.
9. Paul Nicholls
Your heart skips a beat out of pride every time champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a winner. It was Ditcheat-based Nicholls who put Shepton Mallet on the map.
10. The Royal Bath & West Show
Is there a greater combination of showjumping, sheep, cheese, cider, mounted games and heavy horses? Four days of bliss.
11. Real country
Hunt or hack anywhere further east and you dismiss it as being desperately suburban. If you want real country, head to the West Country — this is where hillwork was invented.
Olympia is the only time you visited London as a child. All you remember is that it was a very, very long way from home — and you breathed a sigh of relief when your train pulled out of Paddington and fields of green came back into sight.
13. Mary King
You claim Mary King as one of your own. Born (well nearly — she moved there at three days old) and bred in Devon doesn’t get much better. And if you are in the Axe Vale Pony Club, even better. You’ve already taken your first steps to Badminton glory.
14. Exmoor ponies
Despite spending the majority of your time out of control while your pony proved it was strong enough to carry an adult, you are forever loyal to Exmoors if you had one as your first pony.