When my Mark took an interest in my horse riding hobby, I was pleased. But I soon discovered the mane attraction. By Leanda Fearnley, 32

Pulling on my coat, I grabbed the keys for the Land Rover and stepped out the door. ‘I’ve loaded Lady into the horse box,’ smiled Mark. ‘We’re all set.’

We were heading off to Badminton Horse Trials and Mark couldn’t wait to get on the road.

Horse riding was my life. I’d been going along to show jumping events most weekends since I was a little girl, and for the last 14 years I’d been nagging my fiance Mark to watch me compete.

Now, suddenly, I couldn’t keep him away.

I’d been a teenager when I met Mark at an equestrian event. He didn’t have the slightest interest in horses, he was just helping out, but we clicked and within weeks we moved in together.

From the start he was the perfect gentleman and it wasn’t long before I knew he was the one.

‘Shall we get married?’ Mark slurred one day as he threw his arm around my shoulders.

We’d spent the day drinking with friends and I knew Mark was tipsy but I also knew he meant it. And I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.

Wedding plans had been put on hold when I found out I was pregnant and 14 years and four kids later, we still hadn’t got round to tying the knot.

It didn’t matter though, I adored our chaotic but loving family and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The only thing Mark and I argued about was my equestrian eventing. He thought I spent too much time with my horses, while I just wished he’d support me. 

So I thought it was strange when Mark had a complete change of heart and insisted on coming along to all my events.

I couldn’t explain the sudden interest, but I wasn’t complaining. I was glad of the help and it meant we got to spend more time together as a couple.

Mark even bought me a new Land Rover to tow the horse box to trials at weekends.

With my horse, Lady, safely on board and comfortable, we drove over to my friend Nikki’s house to pick her up and travel to the event together.

I’d met Nikki at the stables and we bonded over our love of horses. It wasn’t long before we were going shopping together or sharing a bottle of wine.

‘Hi Leanda, I see Mark’s joining us today,’ Nikki smiled, as she climbed into the 4x4 and buckled up next to my fiance.

We’d been enjoying weekends like this, the three of us, for over a year. We’d got it down to a fine art - Mark would help settle the horses and then he and Nikki would go off and get the coffees.

I loved horses but combining events with Mark and my best mate, Nikki, was even better.

And it wasn’t just showjumping. When I fell ill and needed to go into hospital for treatment, Nikki was there for me.

‘Don’t worry about a thing, I’ll look after the kids while you’re laid up,’ Nikki reassured. ‘It’s all under control.’

It should have been perfect but as time went on, I couldn’t ignore a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something about the way Mark and Nikki were together made me uneasy.

I told myself off for being silly. It was nice that they were close and besides, Nikki herself was married. But when I saw Mark pat Nikki on the bum one day, I knew something was up.

‘What’s going on?’ I hissed, dragging Mark aside.

We’d been enjoying some drinks that afternoon and Mark claimed he’d thought it was me. But I wasn’t buying it.

‘Nikki looks nothing like me!’ I spat back.

I let it go but the uneasy feeling I had churned and tightened in my stomach. I thought about all the little looks, Mark’s sudden interest in horses, the wandering off to pick up coffees together.

And I began to think the unthinkable. Mark couldn’t be horsing around with Nikki… could he?

It was time to turn detective.

I waited for Mark to go out one evening, before hacking into his Facebook account. My heart galloped in my chest as my worst fears were confirmed and I scrolled through explicit messages between him and Nikki.

I even saw a photo of them cuddling on a sofa together. I was having a mare but nothing could have prepared me for the message Mark had sent Nikki, trying to end their affair.

But I don’t want to give up on the last three years, Nikki had typed back.

Three years?

I snapped then and, hysterical, I ran outside, determined to confront Mark. Luckily, a neighbour heard the commotion and held me back and I phoned Mark instead.

He must have thought he was such a stud but the game was up. ‘How could you?’ I yelled down the phone when I told him I knew everything.

When I sent Mark screenshots of the incriminating messages I’d found, there was no worming his way out of it and he broke down.

‘I’m sorry Leanda, it was a mistake. Please, give me another chance,’ I begged.

At first, I tried to get back on the horse and make a go of things. We’d spent so long together and for the sake of our four children I decided we owed our relationship that much.

But I couldn’t get past Mark’s betrayal. The trust was broken and a few months later, in 2017, we split for good.

Mark began a relationship with Nikki then and the deceitful duo have been together ever since. I still can’t believe he threw our 16 years together away for her, but I’m better off without them.

I’m moving on, but I’ll never forget the day I discovered my man horsing around with my best friend.

Mark says: “Right, yes (I had an affair behind my fiancee Leanda’s back). Yes (I feel bad about what happened, with Leanda being best friends with Nikki). Yeah, can you give me a ring back?”

Nikki says: “Absolutely no way! Do not contact me again. You want to get your facts right! Goodbye.”

Leanda wanted to set the record straight when she caught her fiance cheating with her best friend, so our team helped her to sell her story to the biggest selling women's magazine in the UK, earning a top fee in the process! If you've been betrayed and want to name and shame the love rat, why not give us a call to find out how it works. 0117 973 37330


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