This month I was fortunate
Best known for presenting Blue Peter, GMTV, The National Lottery draws and Wish You Were Here, this household name talks Spanish horses, how a gun horse took control while on camera and why she knows so much about mugs
enough to have a chat with TV presenter Anthea Turner for our Take Five feature. She was so passionate about horses and I could tell she’d talk about them forever if she could.
How did you get into horses?
To be honest, I’ve no idea. I wasn’t mad keen, but my sister was and when my parents finally gave in and bought her a pony, I somehow ended up with one too. Hacking was my thing. I hated gymkhanas — I just wasn’t competitive. Pepsi was too strong for me, though, and scared of motorbikes too, so we often ended up in ditches. He was eventually sold on and then I rode my sister’s pony, Caramac. I lost interest when she did.
Did you ride again?
Yes, I got back into it in my late 30s when I was going through a divorce and needed something to do. A riding school in Richmond taught me about Spanish riding and Natural Horsemanship, and this time I learned to ride properly, as I was such a bad rider as a child. Before I knew it, I’d bought Caramelo (which means ‘sweet’ in Spanish), an Andalusian. He was kept at home and we’d hack for miles. They are such easy, gentle horses and I would definitely have another. We were together for 21 years.
Who do you admire in the equestrian world?
Nick Skelton. He’s the original comeback kid. He’d written himself off and then look what happened. I used to present prizes at Horse of the Year Show and got to know him quite well, so seeing him win gold at the Olympics was amazing — one of those moments I’ll always remember.
Have you ever worked with horses on TV?
I’ve done promotional work. The scariest experience was a road safety promotion, which the mounted police and Household Cavalry were also at. I was head to toe in safety gear and riding 18hh Ivor, a gun horse. We’d done the pictures and the police decided we’d have a little canter and told me to kick on. Well, Ivor bolted and because he was used to dragging a heavy gun, he didn’t feel my attempts to stop him. There I was, hurtling towards the Royal Albert Hall with people scattering out of my way. All I could think of was how I was going to die dressed in fluorescent — the irony! I could see the buses and the road looming and I was just thinking of bailing, when out of the blue Ivor put the brakes on. He definitely knew what he was doing and had every intention of stopping. He just didn’t bother telling anyone else!
Do you have any box sets or series you’re bingeing on?
Yes, I’m addicted to Black Mirror. I still have a fair few to get through though.
What would be scarier, jumping Becher’s Brook at Aintree or tackling the ski jump on The Jump? [Anthea was a contestant on this hazardous show]
Definitely Becher’s. At least with the ski jump I was in control of the skis. Horses have their own minds and I wouldn’t want to rely on one when tackling such a big obstacle.
If a film was made of your life, who would you want to play you?
I’d play myself — who better!
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
If the sun is shining, I would always choose Wales, Cornwall or Devon. I also really like Majorca and Ibiza — they’re easy places to visit and I enjoy the culture.
And finally, how do you take your tea?
Builders! Always Yorkshire Tea with one sugar. I use a mug, not a cup. I’m from Stoke-on-Trent and was brought up surrounded by potteries. I know a lot about mugs.
“All I could think of was how I was going to die dressed in fluorescent — the irony!”
Above: Anthea adores Andalusians. “They are such easy, gentle horses and I would definitely have another”