Welcome to the next instalment of our Countryside Conversations series where we speak to countryside and equestrian adventurers that the G&G team have met over the years.
This piece is written by 3* eventer Sophie Hulme who tragically lost three of her eventers Fintan, Feyre and Charisma, in a devastating traffic accident when she and fellow event Nick Gauntlett broke down on the side of the road while on the way to Blair Castle Horse Trials in August last year. Nick also lost one of his horses, Party Trick.
We know Sophie from when she won our competition to review our Kerrits clothing and have been following her progress ever since. A few months after the accident we discussed the idea of Sophie writing about her experiences on our Countryside Conversations Blog and how she is moving forward. This is the first instalment in a series of journals that Sophie is going to share with us as she moves forward and looks to the future.
To give you a bit of background, Sophie is originally from California where she grew up and trained with James Alliston before heading to the UK to Hartpury College in Gloucester to study for an Msci in Equine Science. She now trains with Nick Gauntlett, who’s yard her horses are also based.
We are so grateful to Sophie for sharing this intimate and heart-breaking insight into her journey, and in awe of her determination to carry on and succeed in the name of her horses after such a catastrophic ordeal. We wish her the best moving forward as we have reached the end of 2021 and start looking to a new year.
Ice Cool Cooley
Over to Sophie…
I have to be honest; this has taken some time to write, time has passed, and life moves on… I think that is always what is so hard about when tragedy strikes. No matter what has happened the world keeps spinning around and time ticks along. Nothing stops it, no matter how big or grave the situation, and this has been one of the struggles for me getting through this crash and through this grief. One day they were on their way to the show, I was excited and riding on a high of how well my horses were going, then the next... they are gone. I am devastated and felt like someone had ripped out my heart, like there was this void that nothing could fill. If I am being completely honest that void is still there, and I know it will never completely go away but that's ok. They were so special and now they are gone, all down to a tragic accident that could have so easily been avoided - that has also made this so hard. It is one thing to lose a horse and that in itself is horrible, but to lose them when they are at their peak, fit and healthy is beyond devastating. I have had to retire horses and step them down from competition due to age or injury and that is hard but there is always a small part of you that knows it will happen at some point and, at the end of the day, it is horses. All of these scenarios do not prepare you for the shock and loss of things out of your control happening, that feeling of helplessness is horrible and I wouldn’t wish anything like this on anyone.
To say 2021 has been a rough year is an understatement and I, quite frankly, will be glad to see the back of it. This has challenged my strength both emotionally, mentally and in a way physically more than I have ever been challenged before. But do you know what has gotten me through? The tears and hurt and emotion remind me that they mattered, that they were so loved and cared for. I use that love and that deep void in me to remind myself that they are now also the reason I carry on. That, they and the lost opportunities, events and time are why I soldier on. Why I will prove for their memory that I will be back and that I will do this for them but also myself because I owe that to each and every one of their beautiful souls. These horses did so much for me and supported me; so I am going to spend the rest of my life and career doing everything I can to remember and honour them.
Ice Cool Cooley aka Fintan, known as the sensitive one of the group. He was my beautiful grey gelding by Beach Ball, when I first got him he was the most sensitive soul - so nervous and wide eyed all the time. Over the years we created a really lovely relationship; he would tell me when something was wrong, and he would trust me so much more. Before the crash we all were saying that he had settled into life so well and was so much more relaxed. He was the type you had to put 4 coolers on when you were clipping or bathing because he would get cold and shiver and give you a big puppy dog look that he needs special attention. I loved and still do love him to pieces and I was so proud of how far our relationship had come and I am so devasted to not know where we could have gone together as I felt we were finally getting where we wanted to go after so much hardship. My last run on him was a blast and it will be a memory I will cherish.
Farytale Cooley aka Feyre, was known as being a beautiful sweetheart and always chatting away to her people and herd. It is something she has passed on to her babies and I will now cherish them so much more. She was a beautiful individual both on the inside and outside, always chilled and you could lead her in and out of the field with pretty much anything. She definitely had a sassy streak, but it was always too much work to do it for long. She was so unbelievably talented, and I am so sorry that she will never have a chance to show the world just how special she was. I am so thankful we took embryos off her and I hope that her babies and myself can make her proud and show the world what they missed. I am lucky that our last run was so much fun; I ran both Fintan and her at the same show. She felt like she was getting it all together and I am so sad to not be able to have the chance to fulfil her potential, but I am also so thankful that I have a lovely last memory with her out competing.
Charisma TH aka Charisma was so incredibly lovely. Everyone loved her and she was SO easy to love. She was simple to do in every way, a dream to ride and to handle. I am devastated that I was only able to compete her twice before she was taken from me. Our last run at Burgham was incredible and I really felt like we clicked after only being together just over 6 months. She gave me so much confidence and she helped me believe that I was back on track and that I would be back at the upper levels soon. I loved her so much and thank goodness we took an embryo from her when she came over from Germany because at least I have something of hers and to remember her by. That little foal was already so special, but is now extra special after the crash. I am so thankful to her and everything she did for me while I had her. My last competing memory with her is so special and I will continue to have that with me for the rest of my life.
So, while I am out at shows whether I am competing, judging, grooming or supporting please feel free to talk to me about it. I might cry as I still do on occasion, but they deserve to be spoken about and I don’t want people being worried about approaching me about it. As this is now a part of my life and I would much rather someone come speak to me than look at me from a distance and wonder if they should or not. Fintan, Feyre and Charisma deserve to be remembered for being the beautiful beings they were. I am thinking of ways to best do that for them that are not just my daily actions. I am going to continue to write about my journey and my progress after this tragedy because it deserves to be spoken about.
Onwards and upwards and here's to a bigger and brighter future.
We heartfully wish Sophie the best of luck in 2022, and we will follow her journey closely.