‘When hounds go, he goes’: 83-year-old rider takes on 73rd hunt season on 20-year-old pony

A rider who has trained point-to-pointers, owned eventers and ridden since the age of three is in her 73rd season of hunting – on a horse with whom she has a combined age of 103.

Shirley Reed and palomino Connemara Biscuit are a familiar sight out with the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray, which Mrs Reed mastered for 21 seasons.

And although they may not tackle the biggest hedges, “when hounds are running, he goes”.

Mrs Reed told H&H she also trained hunter chasers and owned eventers, one of whom competed at advanced level.

Biscuit, who is “supposedly 14.2hh but is probably 15hh”, evented up to novice with Ailsa Waites but found the showjumping difficult so at the age of 15, he was given to Mrs Reed.

“They didn’t want him to go somewhere he’d be pushed, they wanted him to have a happy retirement home,” she said.

“He goes hunting with me now and he doesn’t want to retire much! He’s absolutely wonderful.”

Mrs Reed says Biscuit does not want to believe his age.

“When the hounds go, he goes,” she said. “He can be very naughty; he can whip round very quickly, and still thinks he’s five or six but he’s marvellous, a really beautiful person.

“I know the country extremely well and if they all go for a jolly over fences, unless hounds are running, we don’t jump – but if they are running, my god, he’s gone.”

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Mrs Reed said her husband, who enjoys shooting, now needs some help, which curtails the hunting somewhat, but she still follows hounds regularly, and has no plans to retire.

“I’ve been very lucky; I’ve had some very good horses, and Biscuit is perfect for me now. Touch wood, he’s sound and does everything every day like any other horse,” she said, adding that she credits her groom of 30 years Jacky Southin for keeping her horses healthy and happy.

“I hope he’ll keep going as long as I do, probably longer. He’s like a Rolls Royce to ride, and I just try to keep up!”

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