High-vis and a tailcoat: eventer hacks to first international after horsebox breaks down

  • Never has the quote “let perseverance be your engine and hope your fuel” rung so true as for a rider who overcame lorry woes to don her tailcoat and high-vis to hack several miles to her first international event.

    Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. likely wasn’t thinking specifically about unique challenges and situations faced by riders when he came up with that, but the cap certainly fits – in more ways than one.

    Eventer Tia Lewis and her dad had driven five and a half hours from Derbyshire to Nunney the day before her CCI2*-S dressage, when the horsebox broke down at the yard she was stabling at.

    “This was our second attempt at getting to a two-star,” Tia told H&H. “We drove all the way down to South of England [in 2019]. It was when we had that torrential rain and we woke up the next morning to find the showground under water, so it was abandoned.”

    The pair called the recovery service, who said they would come in the morning. But a series of events, including a hunt for a specific part, meant the box was not going to be fit to use in time for Tia’s dressage test.

    So she packed her bright pink rucksack with studs, passport, headcollar and water, donned her tails and her high-vis, got a leg-up from her dad and hacked the two and a half miles to the event.

    Tia Lewis, complete with tailcoat and high-vis, on her way to Nunney

    Tia shared her story on social media because she wanted to find and thank all the people who came to help her and her “amazing” retrained racehorse Sonny Jim.

    “I wasn’t sharing it to get any recognition, so many people helped me and I just wanted to say thank you. I was so overwhelmed!” she said.
    “It’s not about me, it’s about all the help that everybody has given me and how incredible my horse is.

    “I was quite happy, I wasn’t in a flap, Sonny is absolutely amazing and for me and my dad, it didn’t really seem that much of a big deal to hack him there.

    “We don’t have any facilities at home, he lives on the side of a hill, so he hacks four or five times a week, so I never even thought much about hacking him there as that’s what he does.

    “I’d packed his headcollar, so I was going to give him a little rest and a pick of grass after our test, then hack him back. But everybody took me under their wings – it’s phenomenal how lovely the eventing community is and I’m just so appreciative of their help.”

    When she arrived, someone offered to hold Sonny while she put his studs in and the pair went on to end the first phase on a score of 33.9.

    The organising committee found her a stable on site to use, and gave horse and rider a lift back in the evening.

    The breakdown service decided the horsebox would need to be recovered, so Tia’s mum drove a trailer from Derbyshire in the early hours of Sunday morning to get horse and rider to the jumping phases.

    Tia said she is “very lucky” to have her “incredible” parents and her trainer, Sam York.

    “My family, trainer, eventing community and my horse are the stars of the show,” she said.

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    Sod’s law, however, was not quite finished with the family. After a full day of sitting with the lorry, any hopes that Tia’s dad may have had that he might get to see some of the jumping the following day were dashed when the recovery vehicle broke down en route to collecting the horsebox.

    Fortunately, luck was smiling on his daughter instead, as Tia and Sonny achieved one of just 10 cross-country clears inside the time, finishing 26th in a field of 80.

    “Sonny was just incredible,” she said. “Some people say that horses aren’t versatile, but he raced on the Flat, over hurdles and then goes and does all this.”

    The 13-year-old gelding was formerly in training with John Mackie, and Tia’s dad, who is a farrier and shoes the horses at the Mackie yard, has known the horse since he was a foal.

    “It wasn’t that he wasn’t quick enough, he was very quick in training, he just had no desire to race!” said Tia.

    Sonny came to her eight years ago and is loving his new career and also acts as a nanny horse to the youngsters at Tia’s yard.

    “I owe everything to that horse,” she said. “He has taken me up the levels and we are learning together, which is really special.”

    She added she is “unbelievably proud” of Sonny.

    “You can never say eventing is boring!” she said.

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