Ride of my life: Carolyn Wofford

  • Carolyn Wofford recalls her ride on Solidarity at Birchinley Manor

    We bought Sol 10 years ago when I was heavily pregnant with our daughter Elizabeth. After I had Elizabeth, he was the one I wanted to ride first, because I knew that he wouldn’t buck me off.

    I’ve been riding side-saddle for 14 years. It was my instructor Peta Roberts Peta who got me involved in the world record at Birchinley Manor, Lancs, although I never thought I’d be the one who set it.

    Jumping side-saddle feels very different from astride. The first time you try it, it feels terrible. You have to grip with the back of your right knee and fold from the hips.

    They decided to run the record attempt two nights running, like a puissance with a warm-up fence and then the big planks. On the first night, the other rider went out at 4ft 6in, but to my surprise, we went up to 4ft 11in.

    The next night, the atmosphere was electric. The crowd was fantastic; Sol absolutely loved it and was lit up like a Christmas tree. The other rider went out at 4ft 11in, but Sol and I felt as if we could jump off a cliff. It was like being gripped by a kind of insanity.

    Every time I came round to jump my husband Bruce he told me the planks were three inches lower than they actually were, so I didn’t actually appreciate that I’d jumped 5ft 7in until afterwards.

    Although the adrenalin was running, I wasn’t frightened at all, even when I stood beside the fence afterwards and it was five inches over my head. I’d jumped some big fences out hunting and it was the same sort of feeling.

    The next day I had a huge bruise on my chest where my right knee jammed against it – you have to fold right forward over big fences.

    We nearly lost Sol through colic two and a half years later, but the vets at Liverpool University saved him, so he’s even more special to us.

    His nickname is the Giraffe, because when he gets excited he looks just like one with his great, long neck and pointed ears. When the name stuck, everyone started buying me giraffes – I must have about 50 from all over the world.

    Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (11 July) where Richard Hunnisett talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ at Towcester on champion point-to-pointer Copper Thistle.

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