A black cob triumphed in this year’s epic Man V Horse race, Georgina Silk and her father Peter’s Branny completing the 24-mile race in a time of 2hrs 37mins. Every year hundreds of people flock to Llanwrtyd Wells — one of the smallest towns in Britain — where 1,100 runners took on 60 horses this time and battled to be the quickest to complete the Welsh track.

“Branny is a cob, so she isn’t fast but she does keep going at a consistent speed whatever the terrain. Another rider caught me up towards the end on an Arab who was so much faster, but Branny kept cantering downhill and we stayed ahead. We raced the last mile, which was exhilarating,” said Georgina, a mother-of-one who hadn’t ridden for six months prior to lining up on the start line.

“I moved my horse home to my parents when I had my son so I only really ride three or four times a year now. I just turned up on the day. My parents did all of the hacking and fitness work with Branny beforehand, which is amazing, but it meant I didn’t know when she had reached her limit. I kept saying we should slow down, but Branny wanted to keep going. She really knew what she was doing.”

Photo finish

The fastest runner was Peter Taylor-Bray, who won the open male category in a time of 2hrs 48mins. He finished fifth overall. Sam Avery topped the open female category in a time of 3hrs 36mins and finished 52nd overall. Katy Mellor and Phoenix finished second, missing out on the top spot by less than three seconds.

“It was difficult to tell who won,” added Georgina, a surveyor who lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and their two-year-old son Charlie. “Some people said we clearly won while others said we were about a hairline behind, so we had to wait for the result to be announced. It feels so surreal [to win]. This is my last year taking part and I said to my parents beforehand that I would give it a good shot to win but I really was joking. I couldn’t believe it when I was declared the winner.”

According to Georgina, it was at the half-way point that she thought she had a chance of winning the race.

“We walked down the hill to the half way vet check to slow the horses’ heart rates. Branny’s was below the 60bpm rate when she got checked and so we set straight off again. We were the first to start by quite some way,” said Georgina, who set off alongside three friends.

“The second half was harder as I was alone for most of it, particularly the last five miles as there were a lot of hills and it was hard to keep momentum up. At each mile marker the stewards told me how far behind the leading runner I was. At two miles they said I’m nine minutes behind, so I started to get competitive then. I have to admit my legs were sore the next day. Walking down steps wasn’t fun.”

How Man V Horse works

Runners and riders taking part in Man V Horse cover the same distance: 23.9 miles. They run on the same tracks with runners setting off 10 minutes ahead. Runners can run the full course as individuals or in teams of three.

“I’m always in awe of the runners. It’s a massive uphill climb to start so you pass some of the runners straight away but they’re incredible. Riders were shouting ‘you’re doing great, keep going!’ every time we passed someone,” said Georgina, who added that overtaking runners safely is tricky on narrow parts of the course.

“They tell us to shout ‘horse please’ when we approach a runner and not to say which side as when the runners get tired and lose sugar, it can confuse them if you say left or right. You just have to wait and give people time, which they always do. By the time a horse is ready to overtake there isn’t much they can do to outrun it.”

Top-class runners

Entry numbers are capped at a total of 1,160 and made up of 650 individual runners, 150 relay teams, and 60 horses. The start line is in the square in Llanwrtyd Wells, before heading off down a narrow street, which is why the start is staggered. There is a vet check at the halfway point and at the finish, which every horse must pass.

“We get some top-class runners taking part, including people who have already run the London or Cardiff marathon,” said Lindsay Ketteringham, Chairman of Green Events which runs Man V Horse. “This is a totally different challenge though as they go across moorland, through forestry and rivers, so it’s a very varied course. It’s also very hilly, but that does mean there is stunning scenery, particularly up on the moors.”

If a runner wins, they take home the prize-money. Every time a horse wins, £500 is added to the pot. This is the first time a horse has won in three years.

“The weather was good this week which makes a difference,” added Lindsay. “A runner has won for the last two years when the weather has been hotter, which favours the runners as the riders don’t push the horses as much.”

View the full Man V Horse results here

Photo by Equine Pix Photography

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