Her first point-to-point outing may not have gone entirely according to plan – but Rachel Collins suffered just a fat lip in this fall.
Luckily, amateur photographers were on hand at the Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt’s meeting to capture the whole sequence, which Rachel told H&H was one of her first considerations.
“It was really lucky,” she said. “If you’re going to fall, you absolutely want the pictures of it! If it hasn’t been documented, did it really happen?!”
Rachel was riding her own DaintyDavey at the Easter meeting at Charing, Kent, in 2013. She had ridden in a few races under Rules but thought pointing would provide more riding opportunities.
“We bought him from Ireland,” she said. “It was quite funny as my partner [John Collins] and the trainer Phil York both said ‘We’ll buy a fairly decent horse, she’ll bottle out after the first race and we’ll get a decent horse to continue with’ – cheeky sods!”
Charing was Rachel and Dave’s first run and they were in the lead when they parted company.
“He sort of asked the question, jinked a bit and I came out of the side door,” she said. “You can see me spinning through the air in the pictures but I don’t remember it; I was probably thinking there were 11 horses behind that could land on me. In that split second, I curled up thinking ‘Please don’t hit me’, and thank god, none of them did, although it was quite close.
“And all I got was a fat lip. You know you almost think ‘Is that it?’ as it was pretty spectacular but I was absolutely fine, I got up and walked away.”
Rachel did stop race-riding; she broke her pelvis on another horse and “thought I’d bow out gracefully”.
But she and Dave went on to excel in a range of other disciplines. He ran his last race in May 2014, a good one for second place.
“Someone was there asking ‘What did you think of his race?’ and I said ‘Brilliant but he’s retiring now’,” she said. “My partner, who’s now my husband, said ‘What do you mean, he’s retiring?’ but sometimes your heart overrules your head. I said ‘That’s it’, and brought him home.”
Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) had launched leagues in dressage, arena eventing and showjumping, and the versatile Dave took to his retraining and new career with aplomb, taking the southeast cross-discipline title in September 2014.
The combination also enjoyed victory in showjumping, at the RoR national championships, and in the British Showjumping (BS) club leagues, as well as at the national hunter trial championships.
Rachel was preparing to affiliate fully with BS but in 2017, Dave suffered a serious bout of colic. He recovered but, Rachel said, was “not quite happy” jumping afterwards. He has since enjoyed success in dressage, and now, aged 17, also enjoys hacking, schooling, fun rides and local events.
“He settled into life so well,” Rachel said. “He’s so not what you’d think of an ex-racehorse. I’d happily let my five-year-old nephew, who doesn’t ride, hack him out with me on our bridleways; he’s a really lovely character, and he loves his person, and he just loves life. A really happy chap.”
Rachel added that had she been asked after the fall, she would not necessarily have thought Dave would prove to be so easy to retrain to such success.
“He raced from when he was five to when he was nine, but nothing fazed him, he could do it all with his eyes closed,” she said. “He’s been fantastic and he’ll live out his days here.”
But the pictures of that day at Charing will also always be treasured.
“The first thing I said when I got up was ‘Please tell me you’ve got that on camera’!” Rachel said.
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