My Passion with Ali Gayward: Love of horses has stayed since riding started at the age of two...

Ali Gayward, UK commercial manager for easyJet, talks about her passion for horses.

My mother had been a keen horsewoman and I started riding at the tender age of two. We lived for the first part of my life in Uganda and came to England when I was three.

I rode every Saturday and Sunday throughout my childhood and early teens, despite never owning my own horse until adulthood. I did a little bit of competing at local gymkhanas on ponies belonging to riding schools, and was lucky enough to go to a school that actually had its own school gymkhana every summer. I also used to work at the stables every weekend and during the holidays – anything to be with the horse and in return I was given extra rides – always a bonus.

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My favourite pony as a child was called Sambo – a dark bay pony who, as I recalled, hated jumping, but in my opinion was perfect. In my late teens my passion for riding gave way to studying (and partying) but as soon as I began working I resumed riding again every week. I used to ride at a small centre half a mile from my home, where we took the horses out on the beach after work and usually rode home at sunset via the local pub. I used to ride an ex-racehorse called Miley and I was always the first one home as he only knew how to race.

I introduced my daughter Laura, now 18, to riding when she was four and a few years later we got her a show-jumper pony, Bonaville. I've worked in the aviation industry for over 25 years and while Laura was growing up, my typical role was balancing a busy work life with being a typical "Pony Club" mum, getting up at unearthly hours every Saturday and Sunday to hitch up the trailer and travel all over the north of England to various shows.

We still have Bonaville, though at 22, she is taking life much more easily, and we now own a seven-year-old mare called Holly who was bought as a youngster to enable Laura to carry on her show-jumping career.

Sadly, three weeks after we bought her she had a nasty accident in the field and had to be rested for a year. At first we were told she might never be ridden again, and to consider the possibility that her injuries were so serious we should consider euthanasia, but we wanted to try everything for her, and indeed she is now fit and strong.

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We've been riding her again for about 18 months, bringing her on very slowly, and we've now been told she can start jumping, which was initially beyond our wildest dreams.

Over the years I've had numerous accidents, with injuries such as a dislocated ankle and broken ribs, but as I was always told by my very first riding instructor, "you aren't trying hard enough if you don't fall off now and again."

Accidents like these have never put me off riding and I find there's nothing better after a long day's work at easyJet than to take Holly for an evening ride.

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