Horse riding for fun and for fund-raising
PUBLISHED: 12:23 07 September 2018
Ipswich Horse Society has raised more than £100,000 for charity with its sponsored rides, and its 45-year history is marked by a fantastically loyal committee of people, many of whom have been organising events for decades. Lynne Mortimer went to meet them.
It’s 9am on a warm Sunday morning in late summer.
On a large estate not far from the A14, the meadow is drenched in sunlight, the brambles are heavy with blackberries and, at the far end of the field a small caravan stands. Outside are dotted some camping chairs and a table, which tell me I’m in the right place.
This is the Ipswich Horse Society’s September sponsored ride. In less than hour the horses and riders will begin to arrive to enjoy a 12-mile route over the estate and through the unspoiled countryside.
I am here to meet the Ipswich Horse Society, which, for 45 years, has been holding a horse show and two sponsored rides each year. By 2016, the society had raised a staggering £100,000 for charity and its rides continue to bring in more.
Today, they are raising money for Street Forge Workshops, near Eye, which offers activities, training and social enterprise opportunities for adults who have disabilities. Among the dozens of charities that have benefited from their fund-raising are British Red Cross; East Anglia Children’s Hospice and EACH Treehouse; East Anglian Air Ambulance; Hearing Dogs for the Deaf; Woolverstone Wish and many more local causes.
The Ipswich Horse Society’s committee is three people down today - one of them is Wendy, because she had a fall from her horse.
All, as you might expect, horse lovers, they have together, given the society centuries of dedication. Now, with an average age of 70 (and yes, that means some of them are quite a bit older than that) they run their sponsored rides with the relaxed precision of people who have done this many times before. The way is marked (there are shorter options for those who don’t want to ride the whole 12 miles), marshals en route (some of the committee plus helpers disappear to take up positions) and a plastic tub, in the safe keeping of treasurer Jenny Walton, is ready for the sponsorship money.
Teas, coffees, soft drinks and biscuits are available if the riders return parched and hungry.
Mike Bloomfield has been the society’s chairman for 40 years. He especially wants to thank all the landowners who invite the society on to their land for the charity rides. Today we are at the Old Hall Estate, Barham - formerly part of what was the famous Shrubland Estate and it could not be a more glorious day and a lovelier route.
I am given a fact sheet about the society - such a boon for a journalist - and find out that all 10 committee members have a background with horses - point-to-point, eventing, show jumping, dressage, and judging. I also discover that five of the committee have had hip replacements - they are a truly awesome group of people.
Vice-chair Roy Dale, a farmer, is a horse man who was, for a long time involved in show-jumping and point-to-point. He also used to build show jumping courses, mainly in East Anglia.
I ask if it is possible to make a living out of equine competition. “As a teenager, I used to earn enough to live on,” he smiles. He was just 13-years-old when he first entered the show jumping classes at the Suffolk Show. “I won every year I went with ponies.”
At the time (we’re talking late 40s, early 50s) the Suffolk Show moved around the county. “The first time I jumped it was in Christchurch Park, Ipswich.”
“I still judge show jumping and have done for the last 29 years.”
Treasurer Jenny and her sister, Margaret, had horses at home for many years. “We lost our last horse last year,” she says, adding that their longest lived horse reached the grand age of 34 years. Then, disappearing into the caravan, she makes me a cup of tea.
The horse boxes start to arrive and one of the early riders is retired head teacher Ruth Everard. She says: “Ipswich Horse Society is a really well-run organisation and it’s friendly − you’re always made to feel welcome.
“You’re riding in the most amazing countryside you might otherwise have no access to, and it’s a good way to get your horse fit.”
Ruth takes her number three vest and tags and returns to her horse box. A few minutes later Ruth arrives at the start of the route, riding Basil, who stands tall at 17 hands.
By now there is a steady stream of horse boxes arriving. Everyone parks in neat lines... they’re obviously used to this. The horse are greys, bays, chestnuts and piebalds (“We had a Suffolk Punch, one year.”). Some riders are alone, some in pairs, there are some children on ponies whose parent walk with them, and, in one case, a horse and rider are accompanied by a bike rider.
Trudie Underwood is riding Lucky, while Tyrone Caley is on a bicycle. He could have done the horse ride but has chosen to be on his bike because, he says: “I need to get fit. I am doing the Three Peaks Challenge, next year.” This is when you climb the highest peaks in England (Scafell Pike), Scotland (Ben Nevis) and Wales (Snowden) in 24 hours.
By now more than 40 riders have set off and there are still people arriving. On the loveliest of late summer days, this is the place to be.