Traffic was brought to a standstill and photographers were poised as a horse owner realised a long-held dream of riding over the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Jules Haynes rode her 13-year-old Irish mare Totally Unique across the Avon Gorge in a surprise organised by her husband Martyn Ibson, early on Thursday morning (10 September).
“Can you imagine what that felt like?” she asked H&H afterwards. “I’m absolutely buzzing.”
Video by William Cheek of Aerial Perspective Services
It was an experience Jules’s husband Martyn had first tried to arrange for her 50th birthday, two years ago.
“I’d organised it all, for Jules to ride her horse Solomon over the bridge, then three days beforehand, he went lame,” Martyn told H&H.
“We got him better, and he was fighting fit, then he was suddenly struck down, and we had to have him put down.”
When Jules felt able to start looking for another horse, she saw “Tally” advertised, and felt sure she was the one. But within 24 hours, the mare was sold.
“She was the same age as Solomon when I got him, same breed and height; I just had a feeling I’d see her again,” Jules said. “Three weeks later, I got a message from a friend to say she was with a dealer, so I messaged the dealer to say ‘please don’t let her go!’”
In the meantime, Jules had “done a bit of Miss Marple work” and tracked down Tally’s former owner, Jess Staines, a photographer. The pair travelled to see Tally together.
“I sat on her and said ‘she’s mine, she’s coming home’ and that was it,” Jules said.
“I’ve had her six weeks and she’s fulfilling all my dreams, she’s amazing.”
Jules said on the morning of the bridge ride, she was not in the best of moods, “moaning” at having to get up so early, and because Martyn had brought her riding boots home, rather than leaving them at the livery yard as normal.
“He told me this convoluted story of having to go over the Clifton Suspension Bridge because of an accident, then when we got to the other side, there was Tally, all plaited and in her LeMieux chilli set, and I just burst out crying,” Jules said.
“The whole yard was there, and they said ‘the bridge is shut, on you get’, and off we went. It was amazing.
“To ride across with the sun rising, looking up the gorge, and at Clifton and Bristol, the sun on your face — it was exhilarating.”
Jules said Martyn, who arranged for Oliver Townend to call her at her 50th birthday party, “never ceases to amaze me, the surprises he comes up with”.
The owner of a building company took an 18hh Shire out, and described his day's hunting as an 'amazing experience'
The 11-year-old earned 'something of a reputation' in his younger days for his erratic, frightened behaviour
“He’s just the best,” she said. “It was my ambition to ride over the bridge as when you live in Clifton, it’s an integral part of where you live, and it’s always been ‘just imagine taking a horse over it’. It was an amazing day.”
Martyn said organising the unique experience had included arranging the closure with the “enigma” that is the bridge master, and he is not quite sure how he tracked that person down.
He asked Jess to take pictures and William Cheek of Aerial Perspective Services, a client of his, to film the ride on his drone.
“We’re on cloud nine,” he said.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.