A house fire, debilitating back injury, dodgy cooking and a flooded sitting room — several riders reveal the strife they’ve had to contend with on Christmas day
1. “The Christmas tree was under water”
Five-star event rider Gemma Stevens (née Tattersall) (pictured) recalls one unfortunate Christmas Day during her teens when her family’s home was flooded.
“The Christmas tree was in the sitting room under several inches of water and we spent ages sweeping it out,” she says.
The family spent the rest of the festive season in the study, surrounded by five puppies who were born on Christmas day.
“It was certainly a memorable Christmas, but while I found it amusing I don’t think the grown-ups did.”
2. “The house was ruined”
Six-time Olympian Mary King was awoken by crackling fire during the night of 23 December 2001.
“My children, Emily and Freddie, were only young so my first reaction was to get to them and try to escape,” says Mary. “They found it particularly exciting watching ‘Fireman Sam’ at work but the house was ruined.”
The Kings stayed with family for Christmas.
“Luckily I’d put the presents under the tree and they weren’t damaged, but both children were very worried that Santa wouldn’t deliver their presents because he didn’t know where to find them. We left a note on the front door to say where we were staying and, amazingly, he found us!”
3. “I’ve said ever since I can’t muck out”
With his staff on holiday, dressage rider and trainer Andrew Gould was left with 25 horses to muck out before tucking into his turkey lunch. But with just one stable cleaned disaster struck.
“Andrew’s back went into spasm leaving me with 24 horses to muck out,” recalls his wife Polly. “He was in agony and several clients who came to see their horses were surprised to find him flat out on the tack room floor.”
Andrew adds: “It’s why I’ve said ever since that I can’t muck out.”
4. “The turkey was upside down”
Eventer Andrew James recalls the time his grandmother, who didn’t usually cook, was inspired by TV chefs to make Christmas lunch.
Andrew’s father then carried out his annual carving ritual, but only a small amount of meat made it on to plates.
“It transpired that my grandmother had cooked the turkey upside down so that the breast meat didn’t dry out, but she forgot to tell anyone and it was still upside down when she passed it to Dad to carve. There was plenty of prime white meat left for days afterwards.”
5. “The staff didn’t turn up”
In the days when she was married to national hunt jockey Anthony Webber, showing star Jayne Ross found herself serving a tiny Christmas lunch — “basically a sprout on a plate, as he needed to make the weight for racing on Boxing Day,” she says.
“I’ve had some interesting Christmas Days over the years, the most difficult being when the staff didn’t turn up to work and I was left with all of the horses to do. My parents helped — neither are horsey, but they survived!”
6. “I was locked in the tack room”
Chinese Olympian Alex Hua Tian remembers getting locked in the tack room during a frosty December day.
“I was making feeds when a gust of wind blew the door shut. I wasn’t impressed as it only opens from the outside,” says Alex. “It felt like I was trapped in there for ages. I think the wind made my shouts harder to hear — it was pretty chilly.”
7. “She thought I was being ungrateful”
Event organiser Alec Lochore became unpopular one Christmas morning when, having planned to propose to his now wife, Emily, he hid the engagement ring at the bottom of her stocking.
“She was getting upset because I was rushing through my own presents and ripping them open without giving them much thought,” says Alec. “Emily didn’t think I was being grateful, but in fact I wanted her to get on with it and find the ring.”
8. “I decided to clip on Christmas Eve”
Jo May, who evented up to CCI5* with Faere Vision, found herself in her family’s bad books when she chose to clip her horses late on Christmas Eve.
“I got told off because thoughts were that I should have been inside with the family or at the pub, but there was no stopping me,” recalls Jo.
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