We meet Yvonne Goss and her superstar Jaffa
The team chasing queen tells Hannah Lemieux about her competitive streak, some fabulous horses and embracing the butterflies in her stomach down at the start
“HENEVER I see my doctor, he always asks if I’m ready to give up team chasing and take up knitting,” laughs Yvonne Goss, having listed her past injuries and revealed she takes daily painkillers to ease the aches and pains that comes with four decades of the sport.
Yet at the age of 55, the self-deprecating queen of team chasing has no plans to slow down and, if anything, her victory in this year’s Golden Button Challenge, aboard her homebred ex-racehorse, Untilla Legend (aka Jaffa), has set her competitive flame even more alight. On winning, she became the first dual victor of the tough annual hunt ride that covers three gruelling miles over 22 natural obstacles.
As we chat in the comfort of her flat, adorned with trophies, rosettes, framed pictures and copies of Horse & Hound (in which the former cover star is frequently featured), I get the sense she is a lady on a mission. Yvonne is petite in stature and talks with a soft, particularly modest tone. However, I soon discover that beneath this demure persona, she has nerves of steel and a fierce competitive streak to match.
“I started team chasing at the age of 16 and haven’t stopped since,” says the mother of three, whose sons are all now in their 20s. “I won at my first national championships on Jamie’s first birthday, I was still team chasing when five months pregnant with Ben, and five weeks after having Matt I was back on board.”
Yvonne has been a regular member on the Fox Grant Dot Com team chasing quartet for four years, and was part of their winning team at the national championships in 2014. She has won eight championship titles with different teams.
“Team chasing is like one big family,” she says. “The atmosphere is brilliant; we may all be very competitive but as soon as the prizegiving is over, we always go back to the lorry park for drinks together.”
Y VONNE got the riding bug early on in her childhood when her father turned his hand to dealing ponies.
“We were free-range children but I was always the pony-mad one out of my siblings. My father would buy a pony, I would break it in, win a rosette with it and then it would be sold before another one would come along,” reflects Yvonne.
Team chasing during her teenage years fed her appetite for speed and she was soon hooked on the sport, continuing throughout the 30 years she was based at Bickmarsh Stud in Worcestershire where her ex-husband was a stud groom. Following her divorce, Yvonne spent two years working for racehorse trainer Claire Dyson. In May, she moved — with Jaffa and her dog, Brooke — to her current base and a new job looking after a yard of hunters.
Yvonne seems content with her latest life transition; she lives on site and has Jaffa on her doorstep. The picturesque yard in Chastleton, Gloucestershire, belongs to Jane and Stephen Lambert, whose daughter, Nessie Chanter, is joint-master of the Heythrop.
T EAM CHASING is not a sport for the faint-hearted; it is high tempo and, with each team fighting to get round in the quickest time possible, there are plenty of thrills and spills. I wonder how Yvonne has managed to maintain such a daring and high-risk hobby for such a long time.
“It’s a passion and I just love speed! I am lucky in that I have had some very nice horses who have trusted me completely,” she says, referencing her first Golden Button-winning mount, Perry, former team chaser, Haxton, and her current superstar, Jaffa. The latter is having some “quiet time” until Christmas, having bruised his tendon in the field.
“I do have a natural competitive streak in me. I would never put my horse in danger, but I also would never go out just for a nice ride round a team chase. If I think we have a chance as a team, I will go out to win.”
It is this mindset that has seen her tuck two Golden Button titles under her belt.
“I won the inaugural Golden Button in 2006 with Perry, whom I’d had since a yearling. With Jaffa, I’ve had to wait for him to be mentally ready for the challenge. He was bred to race by my father, Aubrey, and Jamie broke him in before I started riding him as a six-year-old,” explains Yvonne.
“I was beaming from ear-to-ear after winning this year; I couldn’t believe it. Jaffa made it so easy for me and I totally trusted him — he just kept pinging his fences,” says Yvonne. “When you front-run in a hunt ride like that, it can be quite scary because no one has made holes in the hedges for you, so they are really huge.”
Not many people in their 50s would be confident tearing up the turf around an open team chase, even without having sustained the injuries that Yvonne has endured. She names broken collarbones, cracked ribs and numerous “knockouts” and yet none of these seem to faze this lady, who is also a proud grandmother of three-year-old Isabelle.
Since her 40s, she has suffered from asthma, too, although in her own words, she is “not a very good patient”.
“I always put it to the back of my mind while riding, but it usually affects me the most about half an hour after I finish when I can be breathless and wheezy.”
Despite all of this, Yvonne has her sights set on the 2019 Golden Button contest and has no desire to hang up her riding boots yet.
“I get such a thrill from team chasing,” she says. “Down at the start my stomach is churning but as soon as the flag comes down I am fine and the adrenalin kicks in. Until
I lose those feelings of butterflies, I am definitely not ready to give up.”
‘Down at the start my stomach is churning,
but as soon as the flag comes down the adrenalin kicks in’ YVONNE GOSS ON THE THRILL
OF TEAM CHASING
Yvonne Goss, the only dual victor of the Golden Button Challenge, with her current team chasingsuperstar, Jaffa
Yvonne (front) has been team chasing for four decades, and for the past four years has been a regular member of the Fox Grant Dot Com team NEXT WEEK Event rider Richard Jones on his big targets for next season
Yvonne leads the Golden Button Challenge en route to victory this year, riding her home-bred, Jaffa