Defying the doctors an enduring challenge

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TRACY THOMPSON took up long distance riding 20 years ago. The sport became a passion that has sustained her through good times and bad and now she wants to encourage other people to try it out and experience as much enjoyment as she has done.

“I had a fizzy little pony that I couldn’t do much with and someone suggested I had a go at endurance riding,” said Tracy. “It just clicked with her and I loved it straight away. It’s very friendly and not at all elitist.”

Rides range from around 15 miles up to 100 miles in a day for advanced riders.

“It’s something you can do with any horse or pony and there are distances to suit everybody,” said Tracy. “It can mean a new life for some horses, including ex-racehorses and eventers.”

The skill is to keep up a good pace within your horse’s ability. The horses are vetted every 20 miles and their heart rate is checked, “so you have to know your own horse,” says Tracy. “The average horse can do the distance okay, it’s the speed you have to work on.”

Tracy went with the British development squad to compete in Belgium in 1997 and the following year she was shortlisted to go to Dubai for the World Endurance Games.

A serious farming accident that year put paid to any hopes of riding and specialists at Pinderfields hospital did not think she would walk again.

Tracy was paralysed after breaking her back in the accident. She still does not have much feeling below her knees and walks with a stick.

“I don’t think I ever believed them. I had a lot of surgery and physio and I was always determined it was going to be a blip,” said Tracy. She learned to walk again and gradually started to ride.

“The biggest problem now is that I can’t do much on the ground because I don’t have the balance or the strength.”

Tracy’s husband helps her on the rides and their four-year-old son, Jamie, loves to go along, too. She is still in pain due to nerve damage and has an internal spinal chord stimulator to help with this.

Tracy was delighted to be selected for the English team to compete in the Home International at Burghie last year and also to complete her first 100-mile ride since her accident.

She lives at Boltby near Thirsk and is chairman of the North and East Yorkshire branch of Endurance Great Britain and is keen to encourage newcomers. She has competed on everything from a 13hh pony to a pure bred Arab mare and her new hope, Just Giles, who she would like to compete at advanced level.

“It’s something people can do as a family. Or they can aim for longer rides. And it gives you a chance to ride in different places and in lovely countryside,” said Tracy.

Upcoming events include: Wykeham, April 17 (Julie Linder, 07891 670049); Eastrington, May 15 (Rachel Hercock, 01430 449747); Ganton, June 5 ( Karen Flinton, 01944 711242); Helmsley, June 20 ( Lesley Hughes, 018455 37210); Sutton Bank, June 20, Hurworth Hunt PC endurance ride (Lesley Hughes).

More information about groups in your area at www.endurancegb.co.uk.

TODAY is the last chance to enter for the one-day event run by the Harewood Combined Training Group on Sunday, April 10 at Felixkirk near Thirsk. The event has classes for first timers, novices and open competitors with fences from 2ft6in to 3ft6in.

To enter: text rider name, horse name and class to Sue on 07721 730957 and send off an entry form and cheque to reach her by Monday. Schedules and more details at www.hctg.org.uk.

They’re under starter’s orders for point-to-point’s ‘Grand National’ event

THE Middleton Hunt hold their point-to-point at Whitwell-on-the-Hill tomorrow.

There are 25 entries for one of the highlights of the day, the Grimthorpe Gold Cup, known as the point-to-pointers’ Grand National. The race still retains its links with the sponsoring Grimthorpe family.

Two pony races will start the day’s racing, one for 13.2hh and under and one for 14.2hh and under. The first of the main races is the Hunt Members’ race, one of the most competitive on the Yorkshire circuit.

The Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point Club Members’ race has some quality entries with the unbeaten My Old Piano facing competition from Lem Putt and Moment of Madness.

The Middleton also hosts an Intermediate race which is part of the Connolly’s Red Mills series. It is one of 20 qualifiers with the first four in each qualifying race plus winners of other Intermediate races, going on to the final at Cheltenham’s Hunter Chase evening on May 4.

SYKEHOUSE Arena near Doncaster has just held its third British Showjumping intro/amateur Join British Showjumping day.

Over 120 riders travelled to the event where BS had donated free ‘Tickets to Ride’, part of an initiative to encourage more competitors to try affiliated competitions.

Thirty unaffiliated riders took the opportunity to try out British Showjumping with the free tickets. Classes start at 80cm and go up to 1.5m so there are opportunities for both novice and more experienced riders. The next Join BS will be on July 3. For more information go to www.sykehousearena.co.uk.

WILLIAM WHITAKER took second place in a top international class while competing in Arezzo, Italy.

William, 21, who is on the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Development Programme, rode Sarlino, a 12-year-old gelding owned by his father, Ian, in the three-star Grand Prix.

He had just one time fault in each of two rounds to beat some 60 competitiors, narrowly missing the top spot.

“I’m really pleased with how he jumped,” said William. “It has been a little while since we jumped at Grand Prix level, so to come here and get second is awesome. Fingers crossed our form continues.”

William’s younger brother, George, 18, came eighth in the same competition.