Memories of the Sinnington Pony Club

Posted: August 31, 2018 in Memoir

The Sinnington Hunt Pony Club had been formed in 1946 and I joined in the mid-1950s when I was round about eight or nine years old and owned the piebald pony Gay. The first camp I attended was at the Dymock family’s Beckhouse Farm at the bottom of Cropton Bank. They didn’t have enough horse accommodation so Gay stayed up in the village in Mr Ford’s field… he was Horace Rushworth Ford and had to be a relative! I used to arrive early each morning to be able to ride down Cropton Bank in time for the lessons, then back up that steep bank at the end of the day.

A year or so later our Pony Club camp moved to Duncombe Park in Helmsley there were plenty of stables but Gay always developed a dry cough there, more so than home, so we had to dampen her hay, oats and bran.

One year I remember visiting the King’s Troop camp and watching a rehearsal of their performance. Their musical ride was very spectacular especially when they charged towards each other at full gallop whilst pulling the heavy gun carriages. They must have been in camp whilst performing at the Great Yorkshire Show. At that time all our Pony Club instructors were British Army, Brigadiers and Colonels, so arrangements would have been quite easy.

One instructor was Polish. Dr Bronowski always used to tell us “Make much of your horse” and we were allowed a regulation two pats on the neck.

Initially the Pony Club camps were held at Major Richard Dymock’s farm in Cropton. By the time I owned Nibbler the PC camps had moved to Duncombe Park which at that time was still being run as a girl’s school. We camped in some buildings in the park and it was here we learned to enjoy chops which were charcoal on the outside but still raw in the middle. We were able to make use of the school’s swimming pool, the former stables of the beautiful old building. There were also plenty of yards for the ponies’ accommodation.

Blanket clip for Pony Club at Duncombe Park→

We had plenty of lessons in grooming and caring for our ponies and tack. There were demonstrations by the farrier. We did lots of dressage, learning to keep the correct distance from the horse in front and learning all the instructions to number off, go across the diagonal in between alternate horses and all the moves to do musical rides. There was a lane down which we could set up jumps, the ponies not being able to run out so we learned how to ride different strides. I remember in one class Caroline Shaw’s pony trotted up to the row of cavelletti through which he was meant to trot, but he took one casual leap over the whole lot, showing us that galloping at a wide ditch was not necessarily the best way to clear it. We had lessons in show jumping and cross-country riding, it was a very thorough equestrian education.

Most of our instructors were brigadiers and other army officers; all with the excellent training from the British Army School of Equitation at Weeden in Northamptonshire. Bethell, Dymock, Edgerton, Heathcote-Amory, Swettenham, Tetley and Wilson are names I recall from those early riding days.

There were also some excellent lady instructors, Mrs Swettenham and Mrs Sturrock are two I can remember. Some brought their own horses; Kit Edgerton’s horse was a rich chestnut called Red Herring which we kids cheekily nicknamed Kipper.

Brigadier Wilson organised a week-long trek for a group of us. It proved to be quite eventful. One day Bunny Bryant was carted off to hospital with appendicitis. Another night we stayed at Howlett Hall, Sleights, home of the Weston’s and Andy Weston suddenly appeared from around a corner to tell us the hayshed was on fire… we set up a bucket chain to get water and put it out before the Fire Brigade arrived. We received a heap of praise.

Most Pony Clubs organised Gymkhanas and Hunter Trials and sometimes Bridget Heathcote-Amory was my partner in the Pairs Class. She rode a skewbald gelding with an unpleasant nature; I remember at the Cleveland Hunter Trials he was tied to the side of the horse trailer and, as I walked past he waited until I was moving away then he lashed out with his hind legs at full stretch, missing my head by ½ inch. Bridget’s father became Master of the Sinnington Hunt when Lord Feversham died. They lived in Oswaldkirk and his brother was a Tory government Minister.

I also rode in pairs classes with Kay Nevatt and her pony Star. He was a mealy-mouthed bay Exmoor, a great little pony. One time when he was lame, Kay rode Nib in her class at the Sinnington Hunter Trials and she won her class, I won mine, also on Nib, so he scored both blue rosettes.

Dorothy Bowes was another Pony Club and show jumping friend. Her father Norman farmed Manor Farm in Beadlam. Her mother Annie made the most delicious grilled bacon breakfast. Dorothy had a headstrong bay gelding called Tim who went like a train over the show jumps.   He desperately needed to be re-trained to not rush his fences.

Nib on the XC course

Dorothy and Tim


I remember a number of other Pony Clubbers: Christopher Tetley from Habton, Caroline Shaw from Hutton-le-Hole, Robert Churton of Elleran Lodge, the Coopers from Low Askew, Daphne and Anthony Dymock from Cropton, their cousin Caroline Weston from Sleights, Annabel Holt from Kirbymoorside, and just around the corner from Annabel there was a girl who used to live at Kirby Mills near the road bridge, [she eventually married Piers and that was the first time I’d heard that Christian name]. The Heathcote-Amory’s were from Oswaldkirk; the Bethell’s, son of Captain David, later Lord Westbury were from the Wolds and the Bryant girls, Elizabeth, Felicity and Bernadette, daughters of the local MP Paul Bryant were from the Snainton area. From Pickering there was Isobel Heap, daughter of Dr Ken Heap and the Billy Ellerby’s children Michael, Peter and Judith.

One day I was horrified to hear that Billy Ellerby had been killed by a stallion. It was a thoroughbred stallion that Billy had turned out for a spell. He put the horse out in a field down Westgate Carr, near the end of the disused railway line, one of my favourite rides. Doris Frank had ridden her chestnut thoroughbred gelding Kirmy along the track and past the field. The stallion jumped the hedge and attacked Kirmy. Fortunately Doris was able to scramble off and roll under the Gate House fence into the garden. Kirmy fled up the road with the stallion in hot pursuit, teeth tearing at the terrified gelding. At Keld Head the horses had turned into Westgate, heading for the centre of town. Kirmy’s brilliant copper coloured coat was drenched in sweat and blood and he looked black. Someone rang my parents to tell them that Nib and I were the ones who had been attacked.

Some brave soul managed to turn the horses into one of the farm yards leading off Westgate and so spared the residents of the town centre from serious injury. I don’t know how they managed to get the exhausted and terrified Kirmy away from the vicious attacking stallion.

Sensibly Billy Ellerby decided the stallion had to go; he was too dangerous and unsafe to keep. He took the horse to their Fell monger’s knackery on the Malton Road to put the animal down. As he placed the gun against the stallion’s head the horse reared up and knocked it out of Billy’s hand. It fell to the floor, landing on the pin which caused the bullet to discharge. By some dreadful fluke it entered Billy’s body at the one angle which would kill him. I recall the day my father went to the Coroner’s inquest and returned home dreadfully upset.

At some point it was decided that the Derwent Hunt should organise its own Pony Club, so those of us who lived in Pickering and to the east should leave the Sinnington Pony Club and become foundation members of the new Derwent Hunt Pony Club.

By now I had well and truly outgrown Nibbler and he was sold to the James family. In June 1964 we went to Collingham and the trip resulted in the purchase of a 4-year old, 15.2hh black gelding, very green and called him ‘Dusty Monarch’. From 20-24 July I went to Brettanby Manor near Barton in North Yorkshire and home of Wing Commander Peter Vaux, for a Pony Club Instructors Course. Brian Young was our very patient teacher and there were 10 of us from all over. It was an intensive week in the indoor arena, on the show jumping course and with evening talks and films, all really interesting…. dressage, lungeing, cavalleti, jumping and we swapped horses and had to instruct each other…. and I really enjoyed it. George Morley took the horses over in his truck and Margot Tiffany and I stayed in our caravan for the week, catering for ourselves. And Dusty improved over the week and, from all I learned at the course, I was able to keep those improvements happening.

I went to just one camp with the Derwent as an instructor but then Pony Club days were over as I went off to University in Wales, and my studies took me to Australia where I have lived since 1971.

#SinningtonHuntPonyClub #SinningtonPonyClub  #DerwentHuntPonyClub  #DerwentPonyClub  #CarolineFord

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