Page 19 - Chiron Autumn 2018
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success in the Corps Headquarters Sports Day. This was described in his letter dated 12th May 1918.
A red letter day for me yesterday! I have not mentioned in my letter that yesterday we held some sports for Corps Headquarters. The chief event of the day was the Officers’ Horse Jumping Competition. The three best prizes were given for this, and the prize of the day was the first in this event. I started practising on Monday, and found my horse Queenie was really a beautiful jumper. I had not done much jumping before, and I nearly came off on Monday, but I soon improved. The great day came, and eventually the great event. Nineteen horses had entered. You would have loved to see them, such beautiful creatures. You always get fine horses on a Corps Staff; some of the best in Egypt or Palestine.
There were three jumps; the first was a hurdle with gorse on top about three feet high; the next was a bar also three feet which could be raised up to four feet six inches; the third rather a dangerous one, viz.: a stonewall three feet high. I was lucky in that I drew last place for the jump, that is to say I jumped last, so that my horse could see all the others jump first, and get warmed up, and excited, eager for the fray.
As the horses arrayed up at the starting point in the charge of our grooms my heart sank. They looked such a glorious lot, and most of the officers were old regulars, some of them old cavalry officers. There was a band playing and many people from Jerusalem, and hundreds of soldiers. The great event started. One horse, the first, refused to jump at first, but in the end jumped well. The course was arranged so that you had to jump the hurdle first, then ride straight ahead for the bar, turn a corner, and ride back, taking the stone wall on the way back. Horse after horse went round one at a time. General Pearless jumped beautifully, so did Lieutenant Morphy, but several more made some beautiful jumps.
Then my turn came. My horse cleared the hurdle easily, and I rode at a gallop for the bar and cleared it with about a foot to spare. Then round I came and rode at a gallop for the wall. She jumped
it magnificently, and got a very big cheer from the crowd; in fact all three jumps were cheered. Then came a few minutes’ interval while the judges added the marks; then a judge walked over to the centre stand where Sir P. Chetwode was and made an announcement which I could not hear, but which was followed by a big outburst of cheering. Then he came over to us and announced that General Pearless and Captain Steadman had tied for first place, and the tie must be jumped off again. The bar to be raised! I was pleased and so proud, but I did want you to be there.
General Pearless jumped first. He cleared the hurdle beautifully, but his horse refused to jump at the bar, and crashed into it, bringing down both the first and second bars, but he took the wall with a foot to spare and was cheered tremendously. It was a fine jump, the best of the day, so far. Then my turn came. I had already decided to take each jump practically at full gallop (much faster than General Pearless). She went over the hurdles with about
She went over the hurdles with about eighteen inches to spare, and I heard a big round of cheering, and knew that I had done well so far.
eighteen inches to spare, and I heard a big round of cheering, and knew that I had done well so far. I headed straight for the bar, which was four feet nine inches high, at a gallop. Up she came, clearing it in a glorious fashion, with fully a foot to spare. The cheering was tremendous and scared the horse so that she got a bit wild and pranced and jumped about. However, I managed to quiet her and steady her up for the wall. Then I put her at it. By Jove! She cleared it gloriously, and even beat General Pearless’ jump just previous.
Result announced a minute later:-
First Prize - Captain Steadman Second Prize - General Pearless Third prize - Lieutenant Morphy
More cheering, and I spent the next few moments shaking hands all round. I have always longed to enter a jumping competition, but I little thought to win one, in such a big competition as a Corps Staff!!! The old cavalry hands are awfully amused at my riding. I thought it was the correct thing to jump with only one hand on the reins, so I did this. It appears that one ought to have both. One man who had been in for hundreds of jumping competitions told me he had never seen such reckless, fearless, riding as to take a stone wall with one hand, and has made a note of it in his war diary as a most astonishing sight!! My horse went in under the fictitious name of “Also Ran”.
Steadman’s success with Queenie in the jumping competition gave him great satisfaction. Three days later, on 15th May 1918, he wrote that everyone seemed to have heard about it.
After my win last Saturday I find myself quite famous! General Chetwode says that the reason I won on Saturday was because I had the sense and courage to give my horse her head, and to really allow her to jump in her own way without meddling with her mouth. They say that there were probably some better horses in, but their riders spoiled their jumps by pulling at their mouths.
Between them these three horses significantly improved Steadman’s time on active service and it is apparent from his letters that he became extremely attached to all three in turn. Their joint contribution to his wellbeing during the war was remarkable and it is salutary to reflect that an estimated one million horses were sent to France between 1914 and 1918 of which only 62,000 returned home. At least Steadman’s horses were relatively fortunate to avoid some of the more extreme horrors experienced by others on the battlefields of Europe.
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