All in a day’s work: The equestrian volunteer *H&H Plus*

  • Teaching and “giving back” to organisations like the Pony Club has been a way of life for point-to-point trainer Doreen Calder

    I collect horses and at present I have about 35 in total, including four broodmares, their foals and older offspring. The majority live outdoors and we have seven in, which we hunt. Later in the year we will point-to-point some of the others. Ordinarily, the mornings are spent feeding the outdoor ones and riding the ones that are in with my helpers Jenny Foster and Nicki Richie.

    In the afternoon I deal with anything that needs doing on the farm. I did learn to drive a tractor years ago, but I was so bad at it that they didn’t let me do it very often – it’s one of the lessons you learn in life, not to look too competent at anything.

    I have been helping people to ride for 40 years or more. I love encouraging people with their riding and teaching them to get pleasure out of what they can personally achieve, rather than comparing themselves to others, which can be disheartening. I think it’s important to be kind to children and tell them they’ve done well.

    In 2018, I was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to equestrianism and the community of Berwickshire. I like to think it’s because I’ve picked up lots of poles and put up lots of showjumping courses. I’ve always had a lot to do with the Berwickshire branch of the Pony Club, of which I’m now the president. I was master of the Berwickshire hunt, organised the local horse trials at Duns and I am chairman of the South Lammermuir Riding Club.

    When I was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, all farmers kept horses which they would hunt and point-to-point; several members of my family point-to-pointed with varying success. My father was a good amateur jockey who rode for Stewart Wight, a leading National Hunt trainer in the ’50s.

    In 1969, when I was 20, I was selected to make up a British team to travel to Australia with the Pony Club. While we were there we competed against teams from America, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. I was billeted with a family called the Jacksons and ended up staying there for two years and coming home overland via Kathmandu. I am still in touch with the Jacksons and I am very grateful to the Pony Club for giving me that experience at a time when gap years were unheard of.

    My first point-to-point ride was not a success. My father had a horse called Flying Eye who had won 13 point-to-points and two hunter chases and I was allowed to ride her. I had just got back from Australia and I was quite stout, plus I’d put lead in my hunting boots to make the weight right. Flying Eye fell and afterwards I realised she probably hadn’t seen the fence because I was so close to the horse in front.

    It did get better and I went on to have about 97 wins. Sixty of these were on Flying Ace, Flying Eye’s son, but the figure is recorded as 59 because I lost the weight cloth after winning a race at Kelso and couldn’t weigh in.

    The biggest lesson horses have taught me is patience. I think we are inclined to humanise horses and imagine that they think like we do, which is a mistake. Most of the time they’ve given me a lot of pleasure – from watching foals in the field to winning a point-to-point – and I enjoy sharing that with others.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 26 March 2020