Racehorse rediscovers its heart

Nidderdale Show takes place in Pateley Bridge on Monday.

Nidderdale Show takes place in Pateley Bridge on Monday.

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I’m looking forward to attending Nidderdale show on Monday. I have been invited to join John Fort the president for lunch - an unexpected honour.

Pateley is a traditional show which dates back to 1895 and one I have fond memories of, first attending with my pony in 1986 for the show jumping and later progressing to adult classes.

I always sensed a sadness as the day drew to a close and we headed towards home; the final celebration for the farming folk of the valley before the lowering sun of a dark winter set across the remote dale.

Nidderdale Show or ‘Pateley Feast’ never falls before September 19. The reason behind this dates back to the 14th century, when King Edward II granted the town permission to host a sale and fair every year, lasting for five days – three of them over the ‘Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ - and finishing the day after it ended, ‘the morrow of the feast’. This religious commemoration falls on the first Sunday after September 17, hence the day became known as ‘Show Monday’ to locals.

It’s still a big occasion, with 20,000 expected to attend and over £23,000 in prize money. The livestock on show will be in their prime at the end of a decent summer and the chance to take home the last championship of the season is hotly contested, attracting exhibitors from across the north of England.

The horse classes are always well supported, the equitation ring even offers a cash prize for the highest placed rehabilitated racehorse.

Last weekend we took one of the racehorses out hunting for the first time. Pindar has proved an incredibly frustrating horse to train. He spent much of his previous life owned by a renowned gambler, who’d successfully pulled off a couple of decent coups with the horse. It meant Pindar spent many races ‘out of contention,’ a habit which can make a horse lose heart.

I suspected we were just the yard Pindar needed to reignite his passion in the game. After the odd setback, some bad luck and a number of frustrating runs, myself and the owners were beginning to lose faith. He still had the ability at home but at the track it seemed a different story.

As a last ditch attempt I took him to follow hounds on an early morning trail. It was decided Tris, who has an electric backside and tends to light up even the quietest of horses, would ride him whilst I whipped in on a youngster. Having instructed my boyfriend to ride Pindar quietly at the back as he was running at Sedgefield four days later, I hadn’t quite envisaged seeing him sat in the Field Masters pocket soaring over every wall, rail and ditch he came to. Fortunately both rider and horse came home in one piece so for once I kept my mouth closed.

Four days later Pindar was galloping to the first fence at Sedgefield on his last yellow card. He soared over it like he had the Pendle dry stone walls pulling the jockeys arms out, something he had never done before. The pair took the paint of the railings going the shortest way, never touching a twig and came in at 20-1. I was as shocked as the rest of the owners, only Tris seemed unsurprised when I rang him afterwards.

It’s probably a good job I kept my mouth closed.

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