Lets go back in time to 1988 and fourteen year old Sara Cox has a big decision to make. Her spiral perm wafts majestically in the Autumn breeze as she considers her options: horses or boys? its a choice generations of teenage girls have had to make, as its a well known fact that having both a boyfriend and a pony is way too time-consuming and exhausting.
So she has to decide. On the one hand: stolen kisses, last buses, hanging around precincts shivering in your kickers. On the other: mucking out, freezing your fingers off mixing icy-cold sugarbeet on a winters morn, hacking out and stopping off for a bag of chips to eat on the way home.
In the end the decision is snatched from Sara by fate, when her horse is spooked by a back-firing car and tanks off with her along a road, injuring her ankle in the process and therefore being retired to breed in Wales (the horse, not Sara)
Boys it is then.
Lots of firsts followed. First kisses, first regrets, first loves, first husbands.
Fast forward to present day and my love for horses and riding hasn’t decreased, though the opportunities to saddle-up have.
I’ve show-jumped for Sport Relief and met a lovely girl through that who let me ride her horses. I jumped at Olympia for the Christmas show and in meetings with TV execs I always try to spark off equine-based show ideas: “how about Strictly Come Riding?” or “Come ride with me” ? “Million horse drop?”…..
Then last year I was asked to race six furlongs at Goodwood ladies day in a charity all girl race in aid of one of my charities, Great Ormond street. On an actual racehorse.
I trained at legendary jockey Walter Swinburn’s yard for the weeks leading up to the race. I had the time of my life and rode gorgeous chestnut gelding Potentiale to victory. Ok, well ninth. But still, I loved it so when the offer came through from Goodwood to race again this year I of course said yes.
This time I’m training at John Hill’s yard in the rolling green hills of Berkshire. Which is why I found sneaking out of the house at 5am yesterday in order to make the 6.45 gallop.
I was reunited with Potentiale and I’m sure he recognized me. It was quite emotional. If he could’ve spoke he’d probably have said “Oh Gawd that big lump has come back to ride me”
I rode out twice, the second time on Chocolate Chaud (see pic below) a gorgeous ladylike dark bay who I really wanted to squish into my car boot and take home with me.
The stable lads and lasses were really welcoming and looked after me. John himself, his wife Fiona and their trio of daughters are just really cool and I’m massively grateful for the chance to exercise these beautiful horses, galloping out in the sunshine then driving back home with sweaty hat hair, aching muscles and a daft grin as wide as the 3 lanes of the M4 I’m travelling on.