The equine vet and jockey, Lucinda Ticehurst, reflects on early hunting memories, her first point-to-point and her fascination with the art of side-saddle

An ‘L’ plate was stitched on to my hat silk when I rode my first Shetland. At five years old I thought this stood for ‘Lucinda’ but it wasn’t long until I was getting up to mischief with a trio of grey ponies charging about the Oxfordshire countryside. Blonde hair and red mucker boots didn’t help me be discreet but those times taught me much about how to cross country. One day I jumped a stile surrounded by trees only to land in someone’s picnic. Sandwiches went flying and the damage was done but I did apologise profusely before cantering back through it.

While I was at primary school my father asked for permission for me to miss a day for a Pony Club team event as I was a keen member of the Woodland Hunt Pony Club. However, the following day in assembly the headmistress asked me to tell everyone about it and, as I hadn’t been prepped by Dad, I announced that I’d been hunting and was promptly told to sit down.

My father was originally a rally driver and was naturally competitive. He was a driving force for me. When he died (I was 13), my mum stepped up and supported me unconditionally in my desire to fulfil my equestrian dreams. Just weeks after losing Dad, we set off in the trailer but, unable to reverse, we often detoured around major roundabouts. This included a flying visit to Gatwick Airport on our way to compete at Hickstead.

Riding in a point-to-point had always been high on my wishlist but my first ride didn’t come until I’d completed my veterinary training. While vaccinating at the yard of the late Joan Tice, I mentioned to Mrs Tice that I was short of a hunter. She said simply, “Here’s one.” Teeton Dazzler was a lovely big horse who in his heyday had been a successful pointer and started the careers of several jockeys. We hunted the next day then had a great winter team chasing. That spring I finally got the opportunity to bring a childhood dream to life.

Teeton Dazzler and I flew each fence, travelled well and finished strongly – if one could take that feeling and sell it in a bottle one would make millions. It’s a memory I’ll have forever: Dazzler’s ears, pricked and happy, nearly touching at the top. However, a matter of minutes after the finish line he died from a suspected aneurysm. As a vet I know the signs too well. This loss hit me hard. I remember a young girl in pink shorts who was crying her eyes out. I’m sorry, to this day, that I was not composed enough to tell her how happy that horse was when he died.

I was born wanting to be an equine veterinary surgeon. Alongside my equestrian exploits, I am proud to now run my own equine ambulatory veterinary practice. It’s a lifestyle, not a profession, but one I would not swap for anything. Being a vet is a truly special thing: a privilege despite the constant trauma and tragedy.

I’ve ridden in more than 40 point-to-points but I still enter the changing room feeling like a fraud. I suspect I will always be too soft to take an opportunity based on speed and precision over one that gives space and safety. However, every time I get on my horse, in my combined role as trainer, rider, vet, dentist, groom, driver, poo-picker and best friend, it is a win for me. Getting home in front is even better.

To ride in a hunter chase at Cheltenham this year (pictured above in the green and red silks, riding What a Moment) was phenomenal. Winning tack and turnout reflected how well my 13-year-old horse looked and felt. He jumped fantastically, so I promised him our next stop would be the beach, which he loved. I am passionate about thoroughbreds and retraining them. All my horses have raced and afterwards we’ve dabbled in everything from eventing, hunting and team chasing to dressage. Nobody should underestimate a good thoroughbred. They are genuine animals who give their all in any discipline, and have taught me more than I ever teach them.

A venture into side-saddle involved trial and error. My fascination with it was initially fuelled by admiration. I have had the pleasure of hunting alongside fine horsewomen who can challenge any man over a hedge, wall or rails, and cover all terrain while perched aside. Riding this way takes guts alongside a desire to emulate our ancestors’ skill and elegance. It brings achievement, an asymmetry of aches and often a certain level of respect from others who probably question our sanity.

My own side-saddle is stamped ‘By appointment to His Majesty The King’, making it at least 70 years old. The 100-year-old wool habit I wear was made by Roberts & Carroll, coming to me with the original silk lining hanging in tatters: no doubt there is a long and intricate story behind the wear and tear. I love to imagine what my side-saddle and habit have seen in their lives: scandal, romance, tragedy, stolen moments. They will have experienced fear, exhilaration, pain, passion and joy. I love to be part of their story now, carrying on this art of riding in a modern world that has less and less time for the old.