Lottie Prentice: Why Ted's gone but never forgotten
PUBLISHED: 13:51 20 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:51 20 November 2016
© Thousand Word Media
The inevitable demise of a beloved event horse inspired Lottie Prentice to write her first children's book. Now there's a new series inspired by her son William. She tells Katie Jarvis about her Cotswold Life
Former international three-day eventer Lottie Prentice faced plenty of obstacles during her riding career, including breaking bones in her back, neck, and several ribs. But her biggest challenge came when her beloved horse, Ted, reached the age of 19. Crippling arthritis meant Ted had to be put to sleep: a dreadful decision for Lottie to have to make. “I must have changed that date a million times,” she says. “But Ted was a very fine animal: very strong; very athletic; and to see him struggle to move around - and be sore and hate not being able to compete - was awful, because that’s what he lived for.”
Ted might be gone, but he’s far from forgotten. Because Lottie – from Syde, near Cheltenham – decided to immortalise his cheeky antics in print. Her first children’s picture-book, (illustrated by another Syde resident, Lorna Gray), was A Tale of Ted. “My writing is a way of keeping him alive,” she says.
Her second, Night Night My Little Tiger, is the start of a new series, inspired by her four-year-old son, William, who has just been joined by baby Sophie.
Lottie works as a solicitor, and is married to Bryan Goldstone, a rugby player and engineer, whom she first met at an iconic Cotswold event: the Royal Agricultural College (as it then was) New Year ball.
Where do you live and why?
I live just outside Cirencester, the reason being proximity to work for both my husband and me. He goes off to Swindon; I’m all over the place, depending on which court I’m needed in, though I work out of the Cheltenham and Thames Valley offices.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
All my life, including school at Berkhampstead Prep in Cheltenham, followed by the Ladies’ College. I spent my early years growing up in Syde Manor, which was fantastic. We had 350 acres to roam, and my parents never worried about where we were. My older brother, Gus, and I would ride out and be lost all day. Obviously, with that freedom comes responsibility, which I took very seriously. I’d check for rabbit holes and ragwort, and make sure all the fences were secure for livestock. If I spotted a problem, I’d never run back home and say, ‘This is broken!’ I’d just sort it. It was the sort of childhood that makes your creativity and imagination flow, and I see that in my son, now. We don’t have a television – we’ve just never got round to getting one – and he’s outside all the time, playing with his tractors, weeding or even trimming the hedges. He takes his jobs around here very seriously, too.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
Some people love the buzz and the vibe of a city; I can’t stand it! Rather than a family day out at a theme park, I’d go logging with my husband and son. Bryan would be chainsawing; I would be hauling the logs; and my son would be busy with his pretend chainsaw. There would be no phone reception, and it would be heaven.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I’d be quite happy in a shack in the middle of a field, as long as it was in the middle of nowhere. Our current house is functional and standard and, when we first got it, it was very rundown; it was bought as an investment, and it’s one we’re rapidly growing out of. The next plan is to do up one of the barns here [on the Syde estate]. It’s not a huge building, but our new home will be all about the outside space - and log fires, too!
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Probably in one of the tourist traps: I’m not sure I could cope with the constant flow of visitors. As long as I’m with my dog or my horse, I’m happy – I’m a miserable loner!
Where’s the best pub in the area?
I do love a good pub and there aren’t that many decent ones left – they’ve all been glammed up. I like a log fire, and I like familiar faces; somewhere you can chat to locals about pest control and how the weather is impacting on the harvest. The Bathurst Arms in North Cerney is one of the few places that still feels like an extension of your sitting room.
And the best place to eat?
A picnic in a field; or by a river, where Thomas, the golden retriever, could swim, and we could try to catch crayfish. I’m not particularly interested in food – though Bryan is; he does all the cooking. I’d be quite happy with a tub of Pringles, but I’d sit and listen to the birdcalls and try to teach William which bird is making them.
What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The people who have been here for ever-and-a-day, who understand the workings of the land, the animals, and all the interaction we have with them.
... and the worst?
People who think they’re Cotswoldian but who don’t understand what’s going on. The Cotswolds are such a rumbling, rambling, beautiful, unique countryside, and I worry that they’re becoming white stones and white picket-fences, manicured to a suburban perfection that doesn’t belong. I understand that people coming from towns don’t want to live in a wilderness – but don’t come here, then! You wouldn’t go on safari to South Africa and complain that it wasn’t manicured.
Which shop could you not live without?
What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
The support network. William has been at a local nursery, and the kindness the other parents have shown me since I’ve had a caesarian has been wonderful: Can I drive? Would I like them to pick up William? It was the same with Pony Club. You can look at people through materialistic eyes, or you can appreciate them for what they are: really good, decent, hardworking, grafting and grounded.
What is a person from the Cotswolds called?
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
My favourite food isn’t particularly ‘Cotswold’ – deep-fried Camembert; steak and chips; and chocolate mousse. But, as a family, we are trying to become more self-sufficient so we now have our own sheep. Last year, we had three orphan lambs, and it was great for William to see us bring them up and get them onto grass. He helped with the bottle-feeding, and he saw them put to ram and have lambs. The original three – Daisy, Buttercup and Daffodil – are now family pets, but their children will be going in the freezer and onto our table. I want William to have a relationship with animals but I also want him to make the link and to understand that farming is essential. We had his nursery come round to see the lambs; I had to explain it all to them, as well.
What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
We were getting ready to go to [Pony Club] mini-camp, and I watched my little boy climb over the gate into the field to catch his pony. All the lambs were following him and, as he turned back, he rubbed their heads. That was a wonderful view: seeing him have that confidence and relationship with animals at four years old made me very happy. He’s always saving apple cores and bits of cucumber to give to the rabbit; always thinking of animals.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds…
Stone walls for jumping, tweed and narrow lanes.
What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
I love catching a glimpse of the steeple of the Abbey as I’m driving towards Cirencester, sometimes with a mist settling below it. Everyone can relate to that view, I’m sure. But I also love the tiny, weeny church at Syde. It’s not particularly beautiful, but it’s special to me. I’m having my daughter christened there. And the vicar has lots of rescue-animals: at Easter, he brings in the donkey, the sheep, the cockerel and the collie, and there’s usually mayhem as they walk up the aisle.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
Leave. (Or wear heels at a point-to-point.)
Starter homes or executive properties?
The practical side of me knows you’ve got to have more homes for the ever-increasing population, but it saddens me to see land being carved up and destroyed. As you travel towards Stow, there used to be a cross-country course that’s now become a massive Tesco. It’s all changing, and I’m not sure it’s for the better.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
My geography is shocking. Stow-way…? Witney-way…? Bath-way…? I can’t even find my way to the supermarket, half the time! However, if we’re in the middle of a field after a long hack, I can tell you how to get back to the car via all the jumps and hedges that we passed along the way.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
I never would. (I did have a very nice job offer in the British Virgin Islands once, and we discussed it for all of about five minutes. What would I have taken? A tweed bikini. I’m sure there’s market.)
What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Learn how to reverse.
And which book should they read?
It’s a magazine rather than a book – Cotswold Life! I’d also love them to read my Ted book. As well as a story, I hope it would give them an understanding of animals. Horses feel, and they think, and they have a sense of humour. The relationship I have with my animals is not a verbal one, but the language is just as loud.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
Anywhere here on the estate, where – if you drop down into the valley and walk up the other side - you can get lost for quite some time. I’d rather be on a horse, though.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Three-day events. I got talent-spotted at 12 and I’ve competed all over - Sweden, France, Ireland, Germany… As a spectator, I love going to Gatcombe, which is so sociable; as a competitor, the one I miss is further afield – at Barbury, where the going is brilliant, whatever the weather. During my time, I’ve broken my back, vertebrae in my neck, ribs – but nothing that’s really laid me off for too long. Will I worry about my children doing the same thing? It is a worry but, if they’re going to do it, you’ve just got to make sure they’re on good, kind horses and they’ve got the skills to protect themselves. I think I’ll have similar worries – if not more – when they learn how to drive.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I would go to Cotswold Wildlife Park and be with all the zebras, the giraffes and the rhinos: the different types of animals that I wouldn’t get access to normally. I’d love to get up close and personal rather than seeing them over a fence or through glass. I’d probably get mauled, though!
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
Famous horses. My own book is a memorial to Ted, a fiercely intelligent horse with a huge sense of humour: he would thrive on getting a reaction out of me. If I put a rug on a partition in the stable, he would pull it off just to be a bit naughty – but he’d then wee on it, roll on it, and bang on the door to tell me what he had done. When I appeared, he would turn his head and look pointedly at the rug.
The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
Preserved and respected.
What attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
We’ll have a good time, no matter the weather.
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Rik Mayall is a childhood hero – but meeting him would be problematic now. So Dawn French. If I could have my life again, I’d be part of a comedy duo.
Lottie’s latest book – Night Night My Little Tiger – is published by Treehouse Books, price £7.99. A Tale of Ted: A Very Naughty Horse, is published by Crumps Barn Studio in Syde, price £6.99