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

Horse & Hound - - Contents -

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“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

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