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Ride of my life: Julia Woods

Julia Woods recalls her ride on Mystic Moonlight at the English Connemara Pony Society’s performance show in 1992

Mystic Moonlight – Alice – is the only foal of my first Connemara, Mystic Isle, who was bought by my parents when I was 12.

Although we enjoyed numerous wins in working hunter pony classes and also did well in dressage and hunt teams, it was winning the English Connemara Pony Society open performance award in 1992 that gave me the greatest thrill.

It was held at the Bartles’ Yorkshire Riding Centre and the open cross-country fences were pre-novice event standard. I walked the course the night before and said something unprintable.

I had ponies to ride for other people in the novice and intermediate sections and by the time it came to the open, I’d done six dressage tests, three show jumping rounds and two cross-countries.

Although Alice was good at dressage, it was done under sufferance before the fun part. She used to snort at every canter stride and is the only pony I know who can whinny on the bit.

As soon as she knew she was going cross-country she found another gear – she’s only 14.1hh, but in the photographs she looks 16.2hh.

Right from the first fence, I knew that this was what she had been waiting for. There was a big shark’s teeth that she flew and a water complex with a log down into it that went away from the collecting ring. Later, I found that she was the only pony in the open to go through it.

I was so tired at the start but by the end, I felt brilliant. Of all the things I’ve ridden in, that gave me the greatest buzz.

Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (25 July) where Mary Gordon Watson talks about her ‘ride of a lifetime’ at the 1970 world championships on Cornishman V.

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