Team chasing since she was 16, Yvonne Goss has won eight National Championship titles – and the Golden Button Challenge three times
Yvonne Goss has enjoyed the thrills of horse-riding since she was a child, and started team chasing aged 16. Today she has won eight National Championships titles and the Golden Button Challenge three times, with her fair share of thrills and spills along the way.
For more sporting Dianas, seriously sporting ladies offering advice and encouragement, Anastasia Sparrow is shooting alongside Team GB as she trains for Olympic Trap. And working vet Gillian Taylor is raising funds for the World Pheasant Association.
I have always enjoyed the thrills horse riding gives you. As a small child I only wanted the gassy ponies and wasn’t at all interested in those calm, safe and sound-in-mind ponies. By the age of 10 I was breaking-in my own ponies. My father, Aubrey Ellis, liked to do a bit of dealing, so as soon as I got a pony going, winning a rosette, he was sold.
Team chasing started when I was about 16 years old, with a group of friends and my sister, Caroline. My mother’s cousin, John Busby from the Grafton hunt, asked if I would like to join his team, The Fence Benders. Dad said, “No!” but I said, “Yes!” I had show-jumped a lot as a child but just loved the speed of going across country, and rode a home-bred out of Mum’s hunting mare.
In those days we hunted with the Bicester. Having taken a hurdler hunting with my sister, first I took on a post and rails that we didn’t make, then Caroline tipped up in a ploughed field. The fieldmaster was used to us and very nicely said you two girls are more than welcome out hunting but I do think you are going to get yourselves killed one day. We said thank you and good night.
I now hunt regularly with the Heythrop and was with the North Cotswold for more than 30 years.
From leading The Fence Benders around my first team chase I was hooked. I am now a Fox Grant Com Thruster (Will Fox Grant). The thrill I get hailing around an Open team chase course is just breathtaking. I have my fair share of falls/breaks/knockouts but it is all part of being competitive and I have been lucky enough to have won eight National Championship titles.
Team chasers are one big family, we are all alike, keen to win but pleased for each other, too. If anyone wishes to get into our sport and needs some help, there will always be one of us there for you. If you are starting out, you don’t have to have a thoroughbred. Bogey classes are set at a fair hunting pace. The main thing is to have fun, pick a team name and colours, and the rest will follow.
THRILLS AND SPILLS
My favourite courses include the Belvoir (fab hedges to start the season), the Fernie (brilliant for spectators), Atherstone, Cotswold, Essex and Suffolk.
Several years ago I was taken out by a low branch, which knocked me off the back of the horse. I got back on but only six fences later we left a leg behind on some timber running downhill and slid together for a bit. When one my team mates said, “Are you getting back on?” I said, “I think I will leave it for the day.” Both me and the horse were out the next weekend.
Debbie Topping and Graham Smith encouraged me to start riding in hunt rides. My horse at the time was a thoroughbred called Perry’s Pearl by Dunbeath and was given to me as a yearling by family friend Allan Perry. Boy, Perry could buck and bite. Graham nicknamed him Jaws…
I came off in my first Melton. Perry caught a toe, we landed the other side of the fence with him on my leg. Perry watched the others jump the fence, then just got up. I remounted and to my surprise we finished second. I have ridden in the race five times, won three, finished second and third. I was told by a local farmer that I would never win another, so I had to prove him wrong.
We won the first Ledbury Golden Button Challenge in 2006, when the course was waterlogged. Winning it for the third time this year, second year running on home-bred (by Midnight Legend) Jaffa (Untilla Legend) was unbelievable. In 2018 I didn’t quite know what to expect, I had to wait for Jaffa to mature mentally. But I couldn’t get over how easily Jaffa took on the Golden Button course in 2018, so there was no question of not coming back again in 2019.
Winning this year’s Golden Button didn’t go to plan. I had a blonde moment, forgetting where fence four was, and was then taken out by five loose horses at fence 20, the open ditch. Thankfully Jaffa is as competitive as I am and we went on to win. A week later we did the Old Berks race; having bolted to the start he then jumped off in the lead. We were then run out of the last fence but, again, Jaffa righted it and galloped on to win nicely.
My horses jump for me because they want to, not because they have to. You do need the right horse for the hunt races, mainly a good jumper. Nowadays most are thoroughbreds as the races are getting faster but, at the same time, you do need to be able to jump round, too. The main thing in hunt races is to keep an eye on the other riders and the loose horses. And I must remember the way round in future.
TOP TIP: I believe in myself and my horses, and don’t dwell on what could happen. Let the fence come to you. I taught the group of children that I took under my wing: if anything is going to happen it will, so don’t think about it – have fun.