We're still riding
Thank you to everyone who entered the Harry Hall riding story competition, we’ve enjoyed reading every single story. The team of four judges, Ian Stark, Tom McEwen, Roly Owers and Liz Hopper have chosen their winners and the results are below. Each winner has won a prize package worth £1,500.
The winning stories...
THE FUNNY STORY
Donkeys and Drunken Dons
My first pony was actually a donkey! His name was William and nobody told him he wasn’t a pony. We grew up together and went to gymkhanas where he ate the apples in the apple bobbing race and stood on the sack in the sack race, just like any other first pony.
During a life as long as his ears, William, being of a cheeky nature, got into many scrapes. As well as successive ponies and then horses, he had another donkey friend called Cicero. Together, they plotted many an escape, either up the village to the Manor House’s verdant lawns, or down the hill to court a rather cute Jenny donkey. The latter route took the little runaways through the village square where, if they were lucky, they would meet the bus. William was a junky and car (or bus) exhausts were his drug of choice. From my bedroom window, I’d see him rolling in the middle of the square in front of the now delayed bus, and would have to race out with a headcollar and then do the walk of shame back to the paddock!
One of the naughty duo’s most notorious adventures, however, was not of their making. It was a summer in the early 1970s, and the Oxford University Dons were holding their annual fete. They called upon William and Cicero to provide donkey rides and said they would provide transport… which they did – a decommissioned ambulance! Amazingly, all went well and the donkeys arrived safely in Oxford and enjoyed an afternoon’s picnicking in the college garden, while my parents and other guests enjoyed the fruit punch – a drink that had rather more alcohol in it than they suspected.
The donkeys were somewhat reluctant to leave the party when the time came, and much hilarity ensued as a team of drunken academics tried to coax two canny (and sober) donkeys back up the steps into the ambulance. With much heaving and sweat, the two long-eared passengers were finally loaded and the journey home ensued.
On they trundled through the city until stopped by one of the many traffic lights where, as luck would have it, a police car pulled alongside. The human passengers (some of whom were pretty inebriated) tried hard not to look down at the pair of coppers below, stifling giggles and trying to keep quiet. And then the inevitable happened, one of the boys in blue looked up – straight into the large brown eyes of a donkey! A donkey who appeared to be driving an ambulance with his passenger, another smaller donkey, sitting serenely on one of the seats in the back. In pure cartoon style, the policeman slowly removed his hat and scratched his head, just as the lights changed, and the little ambulance with its odd assortment of passengers, sailed off down the Botley Road in a somewhat alcoholic haze! I’d love to know how the conversation back at the station went that evening!
Judge Ian Stark said: The winner for me is the Donkeys and Drunken Dons.
It brought back some childhood memories of Paddy the donkey where I started riding as a 10 yr old. He was a perfect ride for the small children but he used to escape out of his paddock by crawling under the fence on his stomach and disappeared down to the town square and was always found eating the beautiful flowers !!! Our local police always saw the funny side of it!!
THE PINCH ME STORY
Little did I know
Many moons ago I went to a good friend’s wedding with my wife. It was a very posh affair, flash cars everywhere and the champagne was flowing.
Before the reception, all the guests were mingling and chatting, and I started talking to a very friendly chap – who told me he was a dressage rider and trainer, my wife’s into dressage so we chatted away.
Good I thought – someone to talk to about horses at a wedding instead of the usual “career conversations”
As the day and night progressed and many glasses of champagne, we had quite a laugh, got on like a house on fire and people were watching our bad dancing!
The following day he sent me a friend request on Facebook, I had a huge hangover and it was a bit of a blur, I saw the friends request – but decided to ignore it, I didn’t really know him that well, it was a fun night but I’d probably never see him again and we’d had plenty to drink.
The person in question. the one only Carl Hester – doh!
Judge Liz Hopper said: The winner for me is Jeremy Bell, I laughed & cringed all at the same time, but can’t help thinking he’s pinching & kicking himself for not accepting that friends request. Does sound like a great night though.
THE INSPIRATIONAL STORY
Bringing joy to life
I first put my daughter on a pony when she was 2, she squealed with delight and loved it. I continued to visit places where she could get a pony ride, farm parks and pony centres. When she was 5 she was diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, she found school intolerably difficult and began suffering with anxiety. Together with her Grandparents I decided to home educate her. This wasn’t easy as her behaviour could be challenging. Trying to fill her week with activities she might engage with and opportunities to meet other people, I came across the local Riding For The Disabled Association group. I took her along to watch, although she didn’t like being around all the people, she wanted to ride a pony. She went along every Monday morning with her Grandmother and it soon became the highlight of her week. I started to arrange more 1:1 lessons and hacks, but when she was nine a horse shied and she fell breaking her collarbone. A nasty break meant months of what she described as ‘misery’ not being able to ride.
She soon got back to it, building her strength, skills and confidence. Through the RDA she gradually made friendships, learned it’ll how to cope better with situations that made her anxious. She competed with them at local level and in 2019 at National level which was massively challenging to her being away from home. Through the riding stables she was able to then loan the horse she had competed on and started going to help out on the yard. Tragically the horse died suddenly just a couple of months later. Bravely, she went back to her lessons on different horses and became an RDA volunteer. In January 2020 Echo came into her life. She has well and truly fallen in love with this horse. She’s gentle and clever but stubborn and fiery, just like my daughter. They make a great pair, and have done well in the couple of local competitions that she’s been able to do this year. When I watch her in her lessons, she concentrates and works hard, copes with the endless instructions and corrections, focusing like I’ve never seen her on anything else. My daughter has grown up so much, she’s able to do things I never thought she would. There have been difficult times and big challenges but she feels able to cope when she’s with her horse. Everyone at the stables have been really supportive of her and she is determined to make horses her career. Her relationship with horses has given her purpose and determination to overcome difficulties and brought calm and joy into her life.
Judge Eventer Tom McEwen said: My winner for the inspirational stories is Sally James with her daughter and the great work they have done along with the RDA. Every story with the RDA is inspiring especially as we all know the hard work that goes in behind it.
THE CHALLENGING STORY
In 2018 I was starting to find my feet after a difficult few years, I had prematurely lost three horses throughout my teens and was coming to terms with a hip condition worsening, leaving me unable to walk very far without a stick. I was studying to become a Chartered Accountant and had recently moved to my boyfriend’s hometown to start my adult life. I had a lovely horse named Leo, he was troubled when I bought him, but I had worked hard to iron out his quirks and he was starting to compete in para-dressage and BD.
Unfortunately, things quickly took a turn for the worst when, on my birthday, I had a car accident which left me with a permanent injury to my left arm and hand. Not only did I have to recover physically, but I struggled emotionally a lot after the accident as I felt a huge amount of guilt due to the car being very special to someone very close to me. I was determined to get back in the saddle, and I was riding one handed within 8 weeks of my accident, I spent the winter of 2018 rehabilitating and adjusting to my new weakness with the hope of getting back to competing. Unfortunately, just as I was getting back to normal, I got hit with another devastating event, my dear Leo fell seriously ill. After a long stay in an equine hospital, we made the difficult decision to put him to sleep just days before my accountancy finals.
This loss really knocked me sideways, Leo had been a very dear friend to me and had been a monumental part of my recovery both physically and mentally. I was left feeling empty.
Desperate to fill the void, but unable to afford another horse, I set out in the hope that I might be lucky enough to find a horse on loan, perhaps not to fulfil my dressage dreams but just to be my friend. I am so happy to say that I didn’t just find that, I found an absolute unicorn. My dream horse became available for loan, and after lots of assessments from her owners, it was agreed that she could come to live with me. She was an event horse, but I could see she had a huge amount of talent for dressage and I couldn’t quite believe I had found her. Fast forward one year and we have gone from Novice to Advanced Medium (working PSG) and a few weeks ago we won the Grade 5 Para Dressage Festival! I am so excited to see what the future brings for us.
I wanted to share this story as I wanted to show that even if you feel like life keeps knocking you down, you never know what amazing things could be around the corner. You have just got to keep pushing towards your dreams and trust that life has its own funny way of helping you get what you need.
Judge Roly Owers from World Horse Welfare said: The winner for me was Teal Anthoney. Our association with horses is very much a partnership – whatever form that make take. Hence there are 2 key players in the form of human and equine – and Teal’s story highlighted the challenges for both – including the tragic loss of Leo. She has clearly battled great adversity in so many different forms and her grit and determination – and the joy of being able to borrow what sounds like the ideal mare (don’t think she’s given us her name) – makes her a worthy winner.
More shortlisted stories...
Winners of all these prizes!
Each category winner will collect a year's worth of equestrian experiences making 2021 a year to remember. The Experience Package will consist of:
- Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer personalisation wardrobe for horse and rider worth £500
- 2 tickets for Bolesworth with VIP parking
- 2 VIP tickets for the Horse of the Year Show
- 2 tickets for Olympia
- 1 year's subscription to SafeRide
- A lesson every quarter with one of the Harry Hall sponsored riders*
- Dressage Rider Training series 1 free subscription
- 6 months subscription to Horse & Rider Magazine
- Season of your choice with Adventures with Jenku
- 4 seasons worm count package from Westgate Labs
- The Mulberry Tree at Home – bespoke equestrian gift
- Follow up stories in the Harry Hall newsletters, social media, blogs and One Club Magazine
*Rider training subject to travel radius of 50 miles
Way back in the 1870s a young man named Harry Hall began his career as a tailor (and was rather good at it). In 1891 he started his own business “Harry Hall Esq” a bootmaker and tailor - and so the story begins.
After World War 2 horses started to become an animal of pleasure and leisure instead of being a workhorse or a war horse. Harry Hall Esq turned its focus to equestrian clothing as horse riding became a popular pastime.
By the Swinging Sixties, the international equestrian elite were all dressed in Harry Hall - even the stables regiment at Buckingham Palace. Harry Hall Esq had well and truly arrived on the equestrian scene.
Today at Harry Hall the team continues the dedication and passion shown by the great man himself by offering affordable products and insurance policies, as well as membership, to the Harry Hall One Club.
One Club provides members with an online community that supports one another through the ups and downs of horse riding and ownership. There are also some great member benefits and discounts on lifestyle and equestrian brands, monthly competitions and a free members’ magazine twice a year.
The team is a friendly bunch and between them they own 12 horses, 10 dogs, 1 cat, 1 goldfish and not forgetting Happy the tortoise. They work hard to develop some of the very best equestrian brands and products just for you. All backed up by our wonderful customer service team that is always ready at the end of the phone, email or live chat to help you out.
Right now we are ‘holding our horses’ because coming very soon to HarryHall.com is the next generation in rider wear.
The design team, headed by Beth and Alice has been busy behind the scenes, researching the very latest technologies to help today’s riders. We are chomping at the bit to show you their creations plus a whole host of yummy new brands and products for you and your horse.
Find out more about Harry Hall's Heroes
After being touched by the stories of equestrians-second, key workers-first and struggling local centres, we decided to help where we could. Harry Hall's heroes was a pledge to help the NHS and donate prizes to deserving equestrians.