Ride of my life: Caroline Nelson

Caroline Nelson recalls her ride on Miss McGredy at HOYS in 1973

I have been privileged to ride many memorable, top-class horses, but the one who stands out the most, has to be the first – Miss McGredy. She taught me so much, and helped to make my name in the showing world.

Miss McGredy was an exquisite chesnut filly foal, with huge eyes and fabulous movement, who came to us after weaning. We nicknamed her Jane, although she was anything but plain.

Shown lightly in-hand by Veronica Booth, head girl to my mother, she was virtually unbeaten in show hack, light horse breeding and Anglo-Arab young stock classes.

As a small, immature four-year-old, Miss McGredy won the novice hacks at the spring championships at Stoneleigh. A month later we were next-to-last at Newark, so it was back to the drawing board!

We progressed to holdingour own in the hallowed company of the show hacks of the time. Miss McGredy was never a mare for the smaller showgrounds; this little prima donna was lifted by the atmosphere of the big shows. She was never an easy ride, needing hours of gentle work to get her just right.

At the Horse of the Year Show in 1973, Vin Toulson won the Hunter of the Year with Lime Street, a youthful Alistair Hood won his first HOYS title in the small hunter section, while an evenyounger Nigel Hollings collected the Show Pony of the Year with his 12.2hh Snailwell Charles.

Although Jane loved the Wembley atmosphere, she proved exceptionally difficult to work-in that year. I had been troubled by a severe back problem and was riding against doctor’s orders. Finally, we hoped we had her right and she gave a good account of herself on the old cinders under expert hack and hunter judges, Mrs Whitely and Harry Hindle.

After the judging was completed, the competitors waited in suspense to enter the International Arena for the final result. Jennie Loriston-Clarke somehow managed to prise the result from one of the stewards, and came over to me holding up one finger. Miss McGredy had won!

I became quite emotional. Joanie McMillan thrust a large handkerchief at me, with the words: ‘Pull yourself together girl, and go in there and do your job.’

So we did. Jane went superbly and stood like a rock at the presentation. To ride the lap of honour and trot down the hallowed centre line under the spotlight at Wembley was a moment to treasure and one that will never leave me.

I’ve had the good fortune to retread those steps since, all truly magical moments, but nothing quite compares to the first time with my little Anglo-Arab mare, Miss McGredy.

Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (31 October) where Kyra Kyrklund talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ on Matador.

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