EQUESTRIAN CONVERSATIONS: Sara Cork
We first met Sara whilst hunting with the Albrighton & Woodland hunt quite a few seasons ago and followed her equestrian journey ever since. She has been a real keen supporter of Glaze & Gordon since we started up and we often bump into her at shows with her other half, Dan Hammett. After making the move with Dan, who is hunt service, to first the Taunton Vale and now The Beaufort, we love to see photos of Sara's hedgehopping adventures on the hunting field, as well as some hair raising Open Team Chasing and hunt races (Seriously - look at her YouTube channel!!).
An incredible horsewoman, we've watched the live show of the legendary Big Billy, King Koda's mighty napping displays when she first started hunting him and her insane need to jump hedges at top speed and we can safely say that she's the bravest person we know (or most stupid....!).
Whilst we've known you, which has been a few years, you've had 3 incredible horses.. Big Billy, Koda & now Cedric. Can you tell us how you come about these three, a little about them and what you seek when you're looking to purchase a horse?
Since starting to ride from a young age I have been fortunate enough to have some incredible horses along the way which have enabled me to predominately hunt, Team Chase and hunt race. I don’t like to spend alot on horses, in fact, if you total up all the horses I have bought since I started riding then I have only had to spend a grand total of £2,500 which means I always go for the cheap quirky ones! However, these always make the best ones once you’ve cracked them, usually after several hospital trips!
My first horse purchase was Big Billy, a 17 hh Irish Draught who was bought through a friend in Stafford. He was insanely strong to hunt, I was actually advised to have him put to sleep but he was so brave to cross country and he first got me into Team Chasing. He then went onto help Dan learn to ride and was used by friends to Team Chase while I was in cast from King Koda breaking my arm. He turned into an incredible hunter and was still going strong at the age of 25 years old.
I then went on to purchase King Koda, a 16.3hh Irish Sports Horse found on Preloved. He was originally bred to event and show jump, but he was sold on the cheap as he was very nappy and had to be turned away in a field. After buying Koda I soon learnt that he was going to be a big challenge to crack and was again advised to have him put to sleep as he was so dangerous. He could certainly throw some serious shapes and was very fond of jumping in the air on two legs. It took years to get Koda to where I wanted him, but he turned into a serious horse of a lifetime. He has taken me from Novice Team Chasing to leading round Open Team Chases for the most competitive teams, numerous fastest Non-TB Hunt Race awards, completing the Golden Button by ourselves in cold blood, crossing some of the biggest hunt country and being an absolute legend to hunt.
Now I have recently acquired Cedric, Celtic Silver, 14 year old thoroughbred who has finished his Point to Point career but didn’t transition into hunting as well as his owner was hoping so he was gifted to myself. Since taking him on in August 2022 we have been out Team Chasing as well as hunt races and hunting with the Beaufort - he has been brilliant. He does have his moments but overall he has been great and can certainly pick his knees up over jumps which is handy when you see the pace we go into solid Team Chase fences!
When buying horses, for me, they must be good at jumping with the right attitude as I certainly like to keep up when crossing country out trail hunting. I also like a nice hardy type as my horses get worked hard although they are all very much spoilt at the same time. Finally, they can’t break the bank as they may easily break a leg!
Can you tell us about your hunting history? What qualities do you think make or break a hunt horse?
I started hunting from a very young age (from around 5 years old I believe) usually hunting on problem ponies so I was a regular for the fallers awards each season. I grew up hunting with the Albrighton Hunt which then went onto amalgamate to form the now A&WH. Whilst living in Shropshire I found myself predominately hunting with my home pack but also managed to fit in plenty of visiting with the South Shropshire, Ludlow, Wheatland, North Staffordshire, United, Meynell and South Staffs and North Shropshire.
Dan was then successful in applying for the Kennel Huntsman’s position at the Taunton Vale in Somerset where I spent the next 6 years hunting on King Koda. Hunting with the Taunton Vale certainly requires a good horse to cross their country which would include ditch hedges, wire, gates, rhynes and rails and usually out of bottomless boggy ground. We also managed to fit in some visiting with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, South Dorset, Mendip, East Devon, Berkeley and Seavington whilst we were down there. Furthermore, everyone in their life must hunt in Ireland for the experience, so I have been lucky enough to have friends out in Ireland to enable me to hunt with the Fingal Harriers and Louth Hunt.
We have now moved to The Beaufort Hunt as Dan has secured the Kennel Huntsman’s position here which is 4 day a week hunting pack predominately with two-horse days so plenty of horse power needed. Since moving to The Beaufort at the start of this season we have managed to squeeze in some visiting with the Avon Vale and Pytchley as well as joint meets with the Cresselly, Vale of Clettwr and Teme Valley Hounds to keep ourselves busy.
A good Hunt horse is hard to find as I personally like them to be chilled enough that when hounds are running, they will stand and enable you to socialise and watch what’s going on, however, I also want them to be wild enough that when Hounds do run they will cross any country to keep up. I think all horses can be transitioned into hunting with time and is a great career for problem horses struggling with their original discipline.
Now what about team chasing? When did you start and what are your achievements so far? Why did you decide to make the break into hunt racing?
I started Team Chasing on Big Billy just doing Novice and Inter bogey classes with friends, however, when I got Koda going, we soon decided we wanted to be joining competitive teams running Opens. Around 8 years ago I joined Simon Coady’s fleet of teams including Wishful Thinkers and Eternal Optimists and we soon learnt flat out was the only option to be picked for the A teams! Koda excelled at this as he would turn on a six pence and would jump any size hedge even on a sideways angle and he could lead or sit behind. We have managed to get numerous wins under our belt in both Opens and Intermediate speed Team Chases and have completed all the Team Chases on the track.
The Golden Button and Melton Hunt Race had always been on the bucket list, so it wasn’t long before we gave The Old Berks Hunt Race a go to break us in gently to the madness of Hunt Races. Now we’ve completed the Golden Button, Melton, VWH, Cotswolds, Cottesmore, Daylesford, Old Berks, Silver Spur and Wessex Yeomanry.
We think you're absolutely nuts, but in a great way - how do you prepare yourself for your hunt races and team chasing? Do you have any superstitions that have stuck with you?
I must admit I do get nervous before Team Chasing and Hunt Races but for different reasons. Team Chasing makes me nervous simply because of the pressure to perform everything perfectly at speed to bring home the top rosettes for you and your team mates and your captain Simon!
Hunt Races on the other hand make me nervous because of the amount of danger out there mostly from the other horses and riders you’re jumping with and I always always want to come home with a sound horse, so the pressure is on. Hunt races are a serious adrenaline fix but are also pretty brutal out there!
I don’t have any exciting superstitious I am afraid I just look forward to the adrenaline fix and buzz I get out of a successful round competing.
Do you have any future aspirations of races you want to do, or packs you want to hunt with?
I’ve been very lucky to accomplish most of my bucket list already which included The Golden Button, Melton Hunt Race, Hunting in Ireland and being in a winning Open Team Chase team.
I would love to compete in an Irish Hunt Race such as the Antler Challenge as well as the Isle of Man Grand National, both haven’t been completed yet as trips overseas are always a bit more challenging when you have two young kids to sort too!
Finally, which items of G&G wear have you tried out and what did you think of them?
I have always been a massive Glaze and Gordon fan as I love all their country / hunting themed products and their range is so unique and such high quality.
As much as I love all of my Glaze and Gordon purchases, there are certain items I simply couldn’t live without. My PC Racewear jacket is literally used everyday as it is so warm and waterproof but also smart at the same time. I have just received the Stockbridge jacket which is a more lightweight version and is absolutely perfect for the slightly warmer days. It has a very flattering cut and is very smart and professional looking so I feel this will be a regular daily jacket for me to. I have also recently received the Glaze and Gordon cap which I will be a regular wearer when it comes to the spring Team Chase season.
The Tattersall and Hunt Jump roll necks are an absolute must for any hunter as these roll necks are so much more comfortable and warmer than the traditional stock shirts so I wouldn’t be without mine.
My PC Racewear breeches come out for the wet and windy hunting days as these will protect you from all-weather elements that you may come across including hail storms!
For the evenings out and Hunt social events I always turn to my Fox and Hunt print shirts as these are a superior quality and such smart unique design.
Finally, the Hunting theme AGA covers are the ultimate for any hunting/country kitchen and Glaze and Gordon simply have the best designs/prints that I have come across.