The early years
Exeter & District Riding Club was founded in 1957, with the first formal
committee meeting held on the 8th April 1957.
An initial objective of the club was ‘to encourage riding as a sport and
recreation, to promote fellowship amongst riders, and to improve and
maintain the standard of riding and horsemanship’
The first committee meeting proposed organising a trip to
Badminton Horse Trials and other popular social events were whist drives
and dances. It was also agreed that a series of rallies would be held in various
parts of Exeter. It is recorded that a trip to the National Stud was well received
but recorded a £1 loss due to the money paid out in gratuities.
Affiliation to the BHS was gained in June 1957, and during that summer the club
were granted use of a portion of the old Devon County Show field at Whipton
Exeter on a yearly licence costing £5. Initially rallies on a Sunday were forbidden
due to a local by-law but a number of rallies were held on Saturdays. The press
attended one of these rallies and a report was included in the local newspaper.
A representative from the club attended the first SW Area Liaison meeting in
Bath, where a key discussion topic was the lack of hard hats at mounted rallies.
A draw was organised to raise funds, with first prize being two premium bonds.
The club ended this first year with a balance of £41.3.2d
In 1958, a resolution was passed that hard hats would be compulsory at all
mounted rallies. By now there were 58 members who participated in a range
of activities including; a ‘Park Scamper’ at Powderham, an introduction to
cushion polo, 3 picnic rides, 2 treasure hunts and a series of winter talks on
the subjects, ‘Choosing a Horse, Conformation, and The Foot & Shoeing’
6 members participated in a weekend residential training course at Haytor
for which the weather ‘could not have been worse!’ Members were
encouraged to take Riding Club tests with three members passing
Grade I. Funds remained healthy so £2 was spent on the
purchase of show jumps
During the 1960s the club continued to grow. Additional committee members
were appointed including a Junior representative.
An allegiance was formed with the Powderham Saddle Club and many joint
events were held. This was particularly beneficial to Exeter since Powderham
had the use of a small indoor school. Equipment was regularly shared with the Silverton and East Devon Pony Clubs. Exeter University Riding Club members were permitted to join the club at a reduced fee and this gained an additional 10 to 20 members.
Rallies were also held at the Devon County Showground, Huntsland, Poltimore and Rollestone. Scavenger hunts and paper chases were organised in Stoke Woods and at Killerton. Pleasure rides were organised at KIllerton, Poltimore and Woodbury Common and a 40 mile long distance ride was held over Dartmoor.
Instructors included Bertie Hill and a talk by Raymond Brookes-Ward was organised. Visiting instructors were often paid to travel to the area, stay overnight and do 2-3 days instruction for the club. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s riding clubs were expected to contribute money to support the Olympic Equestrian team, on a yearly basis, and a number of fund raising events were held towards this cause.
In 1965 Exeter won the Area Prix Caprilli Competition, team members were Ducarol Steuart, Penny Fellmarks, Juliet Brooking and Valerie Greed; they attended the National Finals, finishing 6th. It was agreed that all team members should wear the same, ie ‘black coats and boots, with the ponies plaited’ From this year rosettes were awarded to team members representing the club and Miss Steuart presented a cup for the highest score in the Prix Caprilli.
The club entered the new Quadrille competition at Dorchester Show, finishing 2nd and winning £15. The Club kept the £6 entry fee and split the rest between the team members to contribute to their costs.
By 1971 the club had grown to 140 riding members and 81 non riding members. 33 of these were Juniors. The subscription at this time was £1.10 Finances continued to improve, with a balance of £110.
Much work in the late 60s/early 70s focussed on reporting and clearing blocked bridle paths in the Exeter area including Mile Lane, Cheynegate path and the Huxham bridle path to Stoke post.
An allegiance was formed with Jersey Riding Club. In 1973, a team from Jersey came to Exeter to compete in a friendly competition on borrowed horses. Later a similar event was organised in Jersey. The Jersey Cream Jug was presented to Exeter as a memory of this.
Rallies continued to prove popular with further venues being added, including Till House, Mosshayne Farm, Whorridge Farm and the indoor school at Ebford. Spectators were allowed to watch these rallies for a small fee. This must have been popular since, on occasions, outside catering was provided. The Club spent a substantial amount each year providing bottles of whisky to the various farmers who kindly donated their fields.
Exeter continued to organise both Club and Area competitions at venues such as Hayes Farm, Powderham and Rewe. Hunter Trials were held at Killerton, Malborough Farm and Hemyock. Participation of club members in Area qualifiers grew to the extent that the committee considered it necessary to form a separate selection committee. The selection committee were expected to attend most events and be aware of current form.
For a few years members from the Bow area organised some events as a subsidiary of the Club. These events grew in popularity and members from this area later split from Exeter to form a new affiliated riding club, now the North Tawton Riding Club.
In the late 70’s the committee meetings record similar themes as in current times. A lively discussion occurred over the age at which junior members should be permitted. The club discussed leaving affiliation to the BHS due to a huge increase in the affiliation fee and committee meeting minutes regularly refer to the lack of help from club members. At one time it was noted that the Chairman and Secretary would reluctantly resign their posts unless the workload was more evenly shared.
During the mid-1970’s discussions started around purchasing a permanent club field. It was decided that the purchase and maintenance of a field would be too costly but that renting a site longer term was a viable option. A suitable venue was found at Shutebridge Farm, Aylesbeare on a yearly trial. The initial rent was £35 a year. When this rose to £105 the following year, it was considered too expensive and over the next few years a number of different fields in the West Hill and Clyst Honiton area were rented on a yearly basis.
Eventually the Club secured the use of a field at Ivington Farm in Clyst St Mary, or Westpoint as it is now known. The Club remained there for many years as Westpoint developed, initially using the site of the Devon County Show car parks, and later moving to the permanent rings of the main show site.
Pricilla Alan Sue Trump Kay Yendall Joan Du Pree Jan Peet
Cheryll Beer Pru McNulty Heidi Bates Michelle Parker