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British Team Chasing

Behind the Scenes at Team Chasing

Team chasing could not survive without its unsung heroes who work so hard behind the scenes.
Lets take a look at those people who help make the sport happen!

BEHIND THE SCENES – MICK HAWKINS

Mick Hawkins has played a vital role in communications with the foundation of the original Teamchasing.co.uk website. Supported by a technical team, along with son Stuart and daughter Emma, Mick set up the website in 2001 to spread the news about team chasing to as many people as possible, from publishing schedules and event information to displaying the exciting photographs that persuaded many people to have a go at this addictive sport.

The website was of course home to the forum, a vital outlet for more detailed advice, information and occasionally lively debate about events! Its most important role was to help get riders together to form teams, introducing newcomers to the sport alongside more experienced hands and putting together scratch squads when things went awry. Along the way the forum has generated lifelong friendships and at least one relationship!

Anyone who had missed an event due to other commitments or a lame horse for example could log on and get all the news and gossip, first hand, and with the advent of mobile web, sometimes as soon as the event had finished.

A vital element was the results page, which required huge commitment from Mick and his team, attending most of the events and staying to the bitter end come rain or shine to get all the placings and times down.

Mick also worked tirelessly with the event organisers to make sure that he had the very latest information about events – a tall order bearing in mind that the universal adoption of mobile phones and email has really only come about in the last five years. Checking the website on a frosty, wet or snowy weekend to make sure the event was on became a preoccupation for many!

Astonishingly Mick has never ridden in a team chase, but has always been an ardent supporter of Worcestershire based open team the Court Flyers. He, Emma and Stuart could often be seen downing clipboard to catch a loose horse or celebrate with their team, depending on the circumstances!

With work commitments building, Mick has now taken a back seat from the website, but as Court Flyers are set to return to competitive action in the spring, expect to see him running about at events once more, keen to see how his favourite team are getting on.

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BEHIND THE SCENES – NETTY NEVILL

Team Chasing

Each affiliated team chase must be inspected shortly before the event by one of the team chase committee's course inspectors, headed up by Netty Nevill. The inspection ensures that the course is safe and is up to the standard required at each level, providing an enjoyable challenge to horse and rider.

All inspectors are experienced competitors and most have team chased at the very highest level.

Netty watched the very first team chase at Hickstead on television and was instantly hooked!

She explains: "I had become disillusioned with show jumping and needed to find a new and exciting sport. Little did I know how it would take over my life!"

Netty formed the legendary Marston Misfits in 1980, and was so enthusiastic about the sport that she sometimes managed and rode in three or four teams a week and tried to encourage more and more riders to join in.

"We never won the national championships but qualified nearly every year, and even in the 1980s and 90s – before it became fashionable – I was lucky enough to have several ex-racehorses to team chase," she says.

Netty suffered an unfortunate accident in 1995 at the Bicester event over an innocuous-looking fence. Her horse hit the top of the fence, fell, landed on top of her and as he scrambled to his feet, kicked her in the head which left her in a coma for over a week.

"Subsequently due to my injuries and ongoing related problems, my team chasing days were over," she says.

The Marston Misfits continued to compete with Netty as Chef d'Equipe for several more years.

Prior to her accident she had been elected on to MFHA team chase committee which she has now been on for over 20 years, and has never missed a committee meeting.

Netty explains: "After lengthy discussions at one committee meeting about how we could improve and standardise the courses throughout the country it was decided to set up a panel of Course Inspectors and for every course throughout the country to be inspected prior to the event taking place."

"We carried out the first inspections in 1994, and at first the course builders and organisers were very much against our inspections, but over the years with diplomacy and lots of tact we have been very much accepted and in most cases welcomed."

"The standard of courses has improved beyond belief over the years since we started inspections and now the course builders are extremely proud of how their course is presented to us when we arrive."

"Whereas we used to have long lists of things needing to be put right, our sheets are mainly blank these days. Indeed, at several of the ones I personally inspect the course builders get extremely upset if I find the smallest nail not hammered in correctly!"

Not only do the inspectors check existing courses but are very happy to travel around the country to offer advice on designing and building new courses from scratch. Netty adds: "We have held four course builders' seminars over the years, two at the Fernie which were extremely well attended, one at the Taunton Vale on a dreadful day when the weather threw everything it could at us, but we still managed to do a course walk and have lively debate with several southern-based course builders. The last seminar at the Atherstone this autumn was sadly not well attended but those who did turn up gained a valuable insight into various aspects of course building and presentation." "All the course inspectors, currently five of us, are ex-team chasers themselves, most have competed at open level and our latest recruit not only team chased but was also very much involved in the design and construction of the superb Atherstone course when it moved to Highfield Farm." Reflecting on her own riding career Netty says: "I was fortunate to own and ride some wonderful horses, in particular, one of my lead horses, Libby, was the horse of a lifetime, I always said it was a privilege to ride her, she never stopped or fell, and could jump from the most acute of angles at great speed." "It has been an honour being able to put something back into the sport that has given me so much pleasure whilst I was competing, it has made me loads of great friends, took me to parts of the country I would never have seen, and left me with a sack full of photos, videos and memories that will stay with me forever."

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