83-year-old who rides and runs show centre says ‘No way, Jose!’ to thoughts of giving up

  • An 83-year-old who still rides, runs an equestrian centre and organises shows has no plans to give anything up, saying “I love it, and it encourages people 30 years younger to get off their backsides and do something!”

    Rose Brooke runs dressage at her Marian Bach Equestrian Centre in North Wales, which last weekend welcomed more than 50 combinations, rides her 18-year-old cob Conan — and will not stand for bad behaviour.

    She told H&H the centre has been “all my own work since the day we moved here”, in 1986, although she does now have one employee, Laura Hourihane, whose sister Alice Reid also works there and both are “fabulous”, while husband Alan takes care of the maintenance.

    “My husband decided he wanted to do a bit of jumping so having bought 10 acres, we thought we’d put a little cross-country course in; we ended up building a whole one,” she said.

    “We’ve only got one livery now; I’m 83 and don’t need a lot of hassle, but I just love doing it.”

    Marian Bach is hosting another show this Wednesday (26 May), a Trailblazers second round with another 50 combinations entered.

    “Doing this has kept me alive,” she said. “I lost my son in 1967 when he was four, and had very serious psoriasis, and arthritis; I was in a wheelchair for three months. The doctor said I’d never ride again, and I said ‘excuse me?’!

    “It took me 15 years to get back in the saddle, then I moved to Wales, which was my home, and met my second husband Alan, who brought me to Marian Bach. It was a little concrete bungalow but we built the cross-country before we rebuilt the house.”

    Another four acres was added to the land, and with its two arenas, the centre is “amazing”, Rose said.

    “People love coming to Marian Bach,” she added. “I’m a Scouser by birth and have that sense of humour, and I won’t let anyone put a foot wrong here. One word out of place and the gate is closed, and people respect that; that’s why they come.

    “I’m as honest as the day is long and will never do anything to hurt anyone, and I’m a grumpy old lady!”

    Rose does not compete any more, although she and Conan did compete at dressage in their early years together; she bought him aged 11.

    “He’s just beautiful,” she said. “He did showing before I had him but they didn’t have maxi cob classes in those days and he got too big for the woman who had him.

    “He’s got a wonderful temperament; you can get on him any time you like.”

    Continues below…

    Asked what she would say to the doctor who told her she would not ride again, Rose said: “I’ll send him a few photos! I’m proud of what I’ve done.

    “In 2013, we were putting the poles and flags away after a cross-country competition and a pole rolled and I went crashing down. I broke my hip and the doctor said walking would be ok but not riding. I said ‘Sod that!’ I was 78 when I got back on my horse, five years ago, and I just keep going.”

    Rose loves running the shows, adding all the scores up without a calculator, a legacy of her years working for the Post Office, and has no plans to stop any of it.

    “No way, Jose!” she said. “I love it.”

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