She slept in railway wagons alongside the horses on journeys to and from destinations like Sicily or cold war Berlin, on one occasion having to melt ice for her charges when the train was delayed at the snow-bound Italian frontier. She carried a knife to defend herself after an incident in an underground marshalling yard in Turin when a man tried to break into her wagon and was still clinging to the door as the train moved off. In her memoirs, Smythe praised Sykes as “a genius” who “cared for horses as children” and stressed the hardships of travelling and sleeping in a draughty horsebox, negotiating at showgrounds in four different languages and packing everything from crockery to campbeds and spare tack (Smythe’s Olympic bronze-medallist Flanagan once ate his own martingale shortly before entering the ring).
Available on Medium. (7th February 2018)