Liz Benwell recalls her ride on Liana Rose at the Golden Horseshoe ride
Jane Welcher’s Liana Rose is a 15.1hh pure-bred Arabian, who’s performance at her first Golden Horseshoe Ride with a strange rider on board proved she has the biggest heart.
The Friday evening before the Golden Horseshoe began Jane announced “You’d better ride Rosie, Liz,”, after suffering back pain when practising riding down Exmoor’s hills.
So there we were, at 6.30am on Saturday and with 48 hours to go, me riding Rosie on to the moor to get a feel of her, but without doing too much work, and Jane’s husband Bernard hovering nearby in his 4WD.
I can’t explain what it’s like riding the Horseshoe, because unless you’ve done it, it’s beyond description. Even those spectating or crewing can’t perceive just how gruelling and lonely Exmoor is – nor how beautiful.
Along the route Rosie and I arrived at several places that made me question whether it was actually possible to ride (or even lead) a horse. But Rosie proved me wrong. Despite the appalling ground conditions, she just got on with it, her powerful back legs going like pistons.
I was glad to team up with another competitor when the fog came down, making it nearly impossible to see the next marker flag. Later, having dismounted to help Rosie negotiate a near vertical drop over stones awash with running mud, I ended up holding on to her breastplate to keep my footing!
Trying to remember tips gleaned when riding with Jane, I listened to Rosie’s breathing, easing her off on steep climbs and standing her in a river for a couple of minutes when her body began to feel warm.
As Rosie power-walked in at the finish, her little frame feeling all of 17hh, I felt that I owed her the world. I still stroke her and whisper memories of that shared experience.
Rosie was one of few horses to complete the 75-mile Exmoor Stag. She won a bronze award, missing silver by just one heartbeat. To havemy name called out at the prize-giving was like a dream.
The biggest lesson I learnt is that the top endurance horse must be obedient and balanced, as well as incredibly fit and hard. Rosie’s lightness in my hand as we descended the hills, and the responsiveness to my leg as we avoided bogs and opened gates was something very special.
And a big thank you to Jane and Rosie for giving me the ride of my life.
Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (4 July) where Carolyn Wofford talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the Side-Saddle Masters at Richmond on Solidarity.
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