‘I should really be curling up with Saga Magazine’: meet the rider fulfilling her eventing ambitions

  • Despite a partner who is sceptical about the safety of horses, and not having a horse herself, Diana Rhodes set herself the challenge of taking up eventing this year

    “At a time of life when I should really be curling up with Saga Magazine, I decided to tackle the item at the top of my bucket list — to take up eventing, having only ever ridden around one hunter trials about 25 years ago.

    “I wasn’t even a horse owner when I embarked on my bucket-list challenge so my first task was to find a suitable horse — preferably one with more experience than me. With a partner who thinks horses are highly dangerous and unpredictable animals, and as a mother of two teenage children, I had promised to buy as safe a horse as I could find that could also get me round a BE90.

    “So in August last year, five months into my search, I found My Amigo, a 16.1hh Irish sport horse produced by Libby Seed. Truth be known, I wasn’t sure I’d pluck up the courage to event, even at entry level, so I needed an uncomplicated horse who would be lovely to hack out too. ‘Amigo’ fitted the bill perfectly.

    “A month after buying him, we went cross-country schooling at Boomerang in Wiltshire. Three of us set off with two horses and came back with a black eye (me), broken collarbone (my trainer) and sprained thumb (a friend). It was a bit of a baptism of fire and did nothing to reassure my partner about the level of risk involved, but suffice to say the mishaps were down to rider error.

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    “I rode my first dressage test in December last year, swiftly followed by some arena eventing. I hadn’t set myself a time frame for my bucket-list eventing, but on 1 January 2017, the decision was made for me. I received a text from my super trainer Dan Griffiths, who runs the yard where I keep Amigo, saying, ‘I have sat down and had a look at the BE calendar for this season. I have taken it upon myself to plan some of your events. No excuses.’

    “So Swalcliffe it was on 19 March, followed by Ascott-under-Wychwood, Chepstow and Calmsden. Amigo and I didn’t set the world alight, but we did finish every event. I am well and truly hooked and busily training and competing through the winter to aim for a more competitive second season.”

    Don’t miss more of your incredible stories of triumph over adversity, your personal firsts in 2017 plus your amazing photos and the new arrivals that you’ve celebrated this year in our special Reader Issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (28 December 2017)

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