John Whitaker returns to grassroots riding club to present awards again – 50 years on

  • Riders and organisers from Ilkley & District Riding Association (IDRA) were delighted to welcome John Whitaker to present their annual awards – 50 years after he last did so.

    The showjumping legend, who handed out the trophies at the first IDRA presentation evening in 1973, returned last Saturday (2 December) in the club’s 50th anniversary year.

    “He was amazing,” IDRA chair Carol Dawson told H&H. “The fact he came back was fantastic. We had the Duchess of Devonshire at our show in August, and this was the icing on the cake for our competitors.”

    Ms Dawson said the club, which was formed to support amateur riders of all ages, has members from five to 75 years old.

    Picture by Bobby Jo Imaging

    “I said to the members ‘You’ll never forget tonight, or the memories you create at these grassroots clubs’,” she said. “All the winners came up to music related to their names, or their horses’ – someone said it was like the Oscars – it was just brilliant, I think it was the highlight of my 15 years as chairman. I can’t thank John enough.”

    Ms Dawson competed against John in the 1970s, and remembers him jumping the legendary Ryan’s Son at one of his first shows.

    “He came in on what we thought looked like a carthorse, won hands down and got 50p and a red rosette!” she said. “And that horse took him to the Olympics, and changed his life. He told me this weekend, he went to the Great Yorkshire Show on Ryan’s Son in about 1974 and felt really outclassed; he told his dad he didn’t think he would go back – but he did, and won the Cock o’the North.

    “I said to John that these grassroots clubs are so important and he agreed, it’s where future stars are made.”

    John said: “It was so nice to see so many enthusiastic horse people of all ages.”

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