After Julie Cook was tipped out during a carriage driving incident that meant her pony could no longer drive, she took on Welsh section D cross Arab gelding Willam to help build her confidence back up.

“The first time I hacked him out on my own, I was going down a country lane when there was an enormous thump from behind; I was thrown into the air and the horse took off at speed down the road,” says Julie, 69, of the incident that happened 20 years ago. “An elderly lady got out of the car, by which point I’d managed to sit up. She claimed that she didn’t see us or realise what she’d hit because the sun was in her eyes.”

Willam suffered from cuts and lacerations on his offside quarters from where he’d been hit.

“I’d had a knock to my confidence after being tipped out my carriage, and then this happened. I was just terrified,” says Julie, who lives in west Wales. “We managed to get him ok with traffic with hours of just standing and letting him watch it, but he was never quite the same again.”

Julie had help from her husband Michael with getting Willam driving again, but she confesses that him stepping away from the horse would leave her panicked.

“I’d have to get down and get Willam out of the cart before Michael could go,” says Julie. “I was so scared, it was almost a little bit irrational – I couldn’t let him walk away from us to even take a photo.”

Starting a new chapter

Julie slowly came to the realisation that whilst Willam was improving, her confidence was not, and she had a difficult decision to make.

“I realised all my anxiety was mixed up with the horse and sadly the only way for me to get over it was to get a different horse,” says Julie. “We found Willam a forever home with someone I knew, who knew exactly what had happened and was happy to take him on.”

Julie started the search for a new horse, and found her “horse of a lifetime” Ringo, a tricoloured cob.

Julie found her “horse of a lifetime” in Ringo

“I’ve had a few horses over the years, but this was special,” shares Julie, who drove, rode and hacked the pony out when trialling him. “I said I’d think about it, but my husband said ‘what’s there to think about?’ He’d seen me go from a terrified woman to happily riding this horse. So we bought him.”

Julie didn’t immediately get her confidence back, but Ringo was the right horse for the job.

“I could take him anywhere and do anything,” says Julie. “He sadly died two years ago, at 28 years old. I owned him for 22 years.”

‘Sometimes the best thing to do is get another horse’

After Ringo died, Julie got a new young horse and joined the #Hack1000Miles challenge.

“I wanted to put my own mark on a horse, but you forget what youngsters are like,” says Julie. “Reading other people’s posts in the Facebook group helps, and it’s a lovely community.”

For anyone struggling with their confidence, Julie says there’s no shame in admitting that your horse might not be the right partner for you.

“If your anxiety is wrapped up with the horse, sometimes the best thing to do is to get another horse,” she says.

The 2023/24 Hack 1,000 Miles challenge launches on 1 April. Stay tuned for more updates, hacking motivation and inspirational stories. You can find our Hack 1000 Miles Facebook page here and sign up to track your miles on our leaderboard here.  We will be giving away our popular tracking card to log all your miles, as well as sharing your hacking stories from the past year, pictures and lots more, with the Hack 1,000 Miles relaunch magazine special, on sale on 27 April.

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