Diana Ralph MFH’s showjumping-bred “gentle giant” has endless scope and is happiest leading the field
When Diana Ralph reveals that Talbot’s “proper” name is Goliat Z, it’s no surprise that she admits she’s never measured the towering chestnut.
“He’s far too big for me at 17hh-plus – I have to stand on his feed bin to put his bridle on,” admits the diminutive Diana.
“I bought him from Martin and Suzanne Sadler and I remember, when I went to Allenshill show centre to try him, not being able to canter a 20-metre circle before I went into the ring. Graham Law had done a bit of eventing on him, so Talbot [so named as his previous owner had bought him while in The Talbot pub in Knightwick] was used to long legs.”
Diana, who is in her 21st and final season as a Croome and West Warwickshire joint-master, may not have long legs, but she is as brave as a lion and she and Talbot, now 16, are a formidable combination.
Talbot was bred to showjump at the Zangersheide Stud in Belgium: “He doesn’t touch a twig – he gives everything so much daylight,” says Diana. “I’ve been led astray across Welland and The Stanks by Ledbury thrusters and have jumped some enormous hedges there. And I’ve jumped what I call the Hedge of Doom – a hedge with a huge ditch behind – three years in a row, which is enough!
“Talbot jumps so high, you feel you’re airborne forever over something really big. And he loves jumping gates as much as he loves hedges. Last year, I jumped a gate that had a skipping rope strung across it a few inches higher than the top bar, when hounds were running. It wasn’t long before the gate was opened…”
“He’s very spoilt”
The die was cast when, during his trial period with Diana, she didn’t dare turn Talbot out and he jumped the large gate out of her indoor school.
“We need proper stud fencing – what I call elephant fencing – to keep him in the field,” she says. “And he bangs that gate when he wants to come in and his door when he wants food. He’s very spoilt.”
He adores hounds and only wants to follow them, not other horses: “He doesn’t go well in the field; he doesn’t like other horses in front of him.”
But Talbot is also “a gentle giant – very kind”.
“You can leave him out in the field for three months in the summer and then just get on him and go. He is a lovely horse to own and I am very lucky.”
Diana actually evented him for two seasons, “to learn to ride him”, and picked up several placings at BE100 level.
“Our claim to fame was finishing 11th overall and second in our section at the riding club eventing championships at Aston-le-Walls,” she says. “He’s the sort of horse you can do anything on.”
However, hunting is their passion. “My favourite part is the field mastering – I love it – and I love all the farmers, who are so good to me,” says Diana. “It is so important to live in the area and know your farmers.”
The Croome and West Warwickshire will miss her, but let’s hope she and Talbot have a glorious final season.
Ref Horse & Hound; 8 October 2020