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‘Patience and perseverance’: how one rider overcame confidence issues to compete in an open team chase

Jodie Howson was a self-proclaimed happy hacker before giving birth to her son Oliver, now three, after which she caught the bug for team chasing, having never competed before.

Having teamed up with her mare, Milly Molly Mandy, Jodie impressively went from novice to open team chase classes in just three runs, but it hasn’t been plain-sailing for the pair.

“While I was pregnant I was on the lookout for a small horse to enjoy a variety of disciplines with. I found Milly and bought her from a family, whose young daughter had been competing her in low-level Pony Club showjumping — she hadn’t done much cross-country,” says Jodie.

“We started really small, but it was like the blind leading the blind across country – she’s a smart, little horse and was very sharp. I had lost my confidence after having a baby and I fell off countless times. However, we persevered and, most importantly, I learnt how to sit back and keep quiet – we were both getting braver.”

But then a rotational fall out hunting knocked both of their confidence.

“It was scary, luckily I was OK, but Milly needed some time off. Then we started slowly again.”

Fast-forward to 2020, and the 11-year-old 15.2hh “pony” loves her new-found job team chasing and hedge-hopping, described as a “cross-country hunting machine” by her owner-rider.

“I found out about team chasing via a friend. I’m not a competitive rider, I just wanted to enjoy it. This autumn, Milly and I ran in our first novice team chase, then our second one came a few weeks later, which was an intermediate,” adds Jodie, who works as an admin assistant for Aberford Childcare.

The pair concluded the season with an open at Essex & Suffolk (1 November), finishing fourth with the Chilled Out Chasers.

“I love team chasing, it’s relaxed and friendly — no one cares about what you look like,” she says. “ I had the biggest smile on my face going round and cried with happiness on finishing. Milly went clear, but most importantly we stayed safe around a tough but brilliant track. I think adrenalin helped us both with our nerves, team chasing has been so good for Milly.

“She is my horse of a lifetime. She trusts me and I trust her — she would jump the moon for me and I feel so incredibly lucky. Practise, patience and perseverance, and dreams really can come true.”

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