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 Inside Out - East: Monday June 9, 2003

TEAM CHASING

Team Chasing event
Team Chasing is making a comeback

It's fast, it's furious and it's been criticised as one of the most dangerous sports in Britain. Now after 30 years Team chasing is making a comeback.

In the 1970s Team Chasing was invented as a television spectator sport.

Teams of four horses would gallop across two miles of open countryside, leaping any obstacle in their path.

As a spectator sport it failed. Thirty years on, the sport is making a comeback. Inside Out meets one of the country's top teams to find out more.

A country sport?

Andrew and Ian Shipley's back garden
The Knightly Hatter's horses are stabled in their garden

In a quiet suburban area in Northampton live brothers Andrew and Ian Shipley, two members of the Knightly Hatters Team Chasing team.

The brother's house is also home to the team's four legged members - their horses.

Andrew admits that it is quite unusual for horses to be stabled in a suburban garden. But Andrew insists that you do not have to live in the country to enjoy country sports.

The horses' unusual quarters certainly hasn't hampered their chances. This is the fifth time that Andrew has qualified for the National Team Chase Championship.

Dangerous sport

TEAM CHASING HISTORY

The Master of Hickstead, Douglas Bunn invented Team Chasing in 1974.

Bunn suggested a team chase of four riders over the natural formidable fences of Hickstead. Twenty teams were invited to compete.

The Team Chase was televised live on Good Friday and continued as an annual event until the Hickstead Easter meeting was replaced by a Whitsun meeting eight years later.

Team Chasing is carried out at high speeds, over rigid fences with the horses running together, making it a highly dangerous sport in which there have been fatalities.

This does little to deter Team Chasing fans, many of who travel for hours to reach events.

The Knightly Hatters join 23 other qualifying teams from across the UK to compete for the title of National Team Chase Champions.

The big event

The team have spent all year preparing for the event and are confident at their chances.

The Knightly Hatters get off to a good start and half way round the course, they are as fast as the leaders.

But all is not well. Andrew falls at a fence and is badly injured. The rest of the team, unaware of the accident, carry on around the course.

On the approach to a difficult combination, Ian glances over his shoulder and he too is unseated.

"Another fall from the Knightly Hatters," says the commentator. "Just goes to show when things go wrong, they go very wrong."

Road to recovery

Horses clearing a fence
The fences jumped in the event are high and rigid and are taken at a gallop

Ian is soon up on his feet, but for Andrew things are not looking as good.

Andrew is taken to Northampton General Hospital leaving a worried family behind.

"Six seasons and we've had nothing like this," says dad, Malcolm Shipley. "It has put me off."

But like all animal lovers - Andrew's primary concern is for his horse.

"It's the way it goes," explains fellow team mate Lucy Hyde-Thompson. "When ever anything happens, you may be in pieces but your first thought is always is the horse OK?"

Try and try again

Amazingly, Andrew makes a full recovery and is discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health in just two days.

The sport may be high risk, but for adrenaline junkies such as the Knightly Hatters, it is all part of the challenge.

True to form, Andrew is already looking forward to the start of the season and the chance to go for gold once more.

Brave or crazy? We let you decide!

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Team Chasing
British Horse Society
New Rider

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