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The NDG is affiliated to the BHS. If you would like to become a member please download the membership form below. The NDG year runs from 1st Nov - 31st Oct.

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NDG does not have a junior section and so membership is restricted to people aged 18 years and over.

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The History of the Northern Dressage Group 1969 - 2009

How and why did dressage start, and become so popular in the Northwest? It started way back after the second world war when three Polish Cavalry officers arrived individually in this country escaping from the chaos in Europe. They were fighting on horse back against German tanks. They escaped on their horses across Europe in just their uniforms and with their military packs. I remember Captain Sklarczyk recounting how he had jumped his horse off a bridge into a river to escape.

 

In this country one became established in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, one in Lancashire near Preston and one in Malton Yorkshire. They began teaching riding. They came from a tradition of competing in ‘The Military’ the forerunner of the three day event. They taught accurate and disciplined riding and jumping with the horse between the rider’s hand and leg and the rider having a position which made this possible; the start of the forward seat for jumping in this country. Teaching was on military lines with instant obedience expected from horse and rider, not for the faint hearted. The impact of this teaching had an immediate effect in the Pony Club branches in the area, members becoming successful in dressage, combined training and Horse Trials.

 

On out - growing the Pony Club, riders found that though there was hunting and Agricultural Shows, there were no competitions that demonstrated the training of the horse. If your horse was not a Hunter or a Hack of show standard and could not jump a Grade C track (the lowest level of show jumping in those days) there were no competitions to go to and no dressage training on offer. This was one strand of the people interested in dressage, the other strand was BHS instructors Dorothy Johnson, Vivian Lomax, Joan Christian the late Bobby Banks and Joyce Benson from Cheshire.

In 1969 a group of about twenty like minded people got together and held an open meeting where it was decided to elect a committee to start a riding club. It’s aim was to further the training of horse and rider in dressage and jumping and to put on competitions. It was to be called the Northern Dressage Group. The first activities to be arranged were five training days taken by the above instructors who all volunteered the use of their premises and expertise. It was decided to hold two competitions, entry fee five old pence (two and a half new pence) per class with only mineral drinks served for refreshments, held in a field of course.

Baron Hans von Blixen-Finecke

Baron Hans von Blixen-Finecke

In 1971 our first open competition was held in a field next to the Squirrel Public House in Horwich . The day before it took six of us about three hours to put up one short home made arena (planks painted white) with home made letters. The arena was roughly the right size with roughly right angle corners all judged by eye. During the evening the usual occupants of the field, five inquisitive ponies were turned out and they proceeded to amuse themselves by nudging our arena all over the field. We held a Preliminary, Novice and Elementary class. The latter had two entries and every one gathered round to watch the two most advanced horses. Our judge was Baron Hans von Blixen-Finecke. It was the end of a six day course that he had run for us, He stayed over to judge before returning home to Cornwall.

Haydock_park_racecourse

In 1972 – 1777 we held our annual Show on the grass car parks at Haydock park racecourse. It was always lovely going as the turf was well maintained one year the sprinklers were turned on by mistake in the middle of a test drenching the poor competitor.

 

The classes were Preliminary to Advanced with Lady Joicy and Lady Caroline Tyrrel coming down from Scotland. Stephen Clarke and Frances Rudge were among our competitors as well as many of our own members, Barbara Miller, Ann Lace, Moira Meadowcroft, Shirley Hindle, Vivian Lomax and Smo Foden to name but a few. We held inter club competitions with East Cheshire Combined training Group and went to the Polo Ground and Joyce Benson's at Little Budworth.

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Barbara Miller riding Charter Hall at Little Budworth

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Barbara Miller and Isobel Ashworth

We had regular five day courses from Hans von Blixen Fineke attended by Chris and Jane Bartle in the days of Wily Trout, Honey Tangle and Pinocchio. Our then Chairman Isobel (Iso) Ashworth would put him up at her home in Rivington where she spoilt him by making his favourite home made rice pudding. Hans later went to a group at Markington, the Bartles’ home. Carolyn Blain came second to Ferdi Eilberg in the BD Elementary Championships at Goodwood House

 

We also had four day courses from Herr Rochowansky. The jumping was catered for by Pat Charles (Peter Charles’ sister) Jonny Greenwood and John Marsden. The latter we helped out with his dressage when in the early days it was a bit of a mystery to him. More recently we have had Jeanette Brakewell.

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Carolyn Blain on Brookhill Nimbus with the Baron.

In 1976 our subscription was £2 , entry for dressage tests was 30 p and 60 p with jumping. We had mini long distance rides, to Rivington and the beach. We held novelty competitions in which we drew lots for partners and after each riding a test on our own horse we changed horses and then rode the same test on our partner’s horse and the highest total of the four tests was the winner. We did group dressage competitions where three or four people rode together to a commanded test and four marks were allotted to each horse and rider, paces, suppleness, submission and rider’s position. If desired a ride- off of the four best competitiors could be held. This method was used in Germany when they had enormous Preliminary classes because it made it considerably quicker.

 

As more equestrian businesses opened up we were able to hold indoor competitions over a wider area. We bought commercially made dressage boards and sets of letters. A farm worker employed by one of our farming members came up with the first set of nylon ropes which made use of the principal of a right angle triangle to set up an accurate arena . Three people could set up six arenas in a field in one and a half hours which we did many times the day before a competition.

 

Stephen Clarke Ad - no text

Stephen Clarke

By this time British Dressage and the official judges list was set up. We have produced and are producing many judges from among our members, not the least of them being Stephen Clarke who was one of our earliest competitors. He learnt half pass from Col. Pohajsky’s book The Complete Training of Horse and Rider, the book balanced on a convenient gatepost for reference while he rode. Stephen now has a worldwide reputation and in 2010 was awarded the BHS Queen's Award for equestrianism.

Col. Pohajsky’s book

The Complete Training of Horse and Rider

We became an affiliated Riding Club so that members could compete in the team inter branch competitions , Dressage , Riding Test , Pairs Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing , Dressage to Music, Rural Riders and The Quadrille. Over the years we have had many successes in all of these.

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Riding Club Championships 1978. John Marsden, Jan Forster, Tricia Banks & Rosemary Sharmin

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1st Area Eventing 1985. Hazel Booth, Eileen Lester Ian Carr & Fiona Lace.

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Pairs Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh 1987. Hayley Carus & Jan Forster

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Winning Horse Trial Team 1987. Jan Forster, Eileen Lester, Janet Berry & Crispin Lace.

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NDG Dressage Team 1987. Crispin Lace, Jan Forster & Brenda Smith.

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Borse Trial Championships and Everdon 1988. Eileen Lester, Janice Merser, Rebecca Pugh & Jan Forster.

 

In 1990 our 21st year we had a Celebration Dinner in the Georgian Restaurant West Houghton and in December we had a Christmas Extravaganza at Osbaldeston. We had a display of Grand Prix Dressage, a side-saddle Pas de Deux. Wilmslow’s successful Quadrille Team gave a performance, followed by a Cavalcade of Horse Personalities, a dog agility display and Carols lead by St. Leonard’s Parish Church Choir complete with their harmonium. It was accompanied by mince pies and mulled wine, the committee were in fancy dress and we really celebrated our twenty one years.

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The winning team in 1994, Alan Rogers, Polly Smith, Sam Rushden, Lorna Broome, Sue Dutton, Polly Dixon & Tonia Carus as Commander.

In 1994 we fielded our first Rural Riders Team and won the Championships at Malvern. We have had a team nearly every year since.

In 1999 the NDG ran our First Premier League Competition. Stephen Clarke got us our Foreign Judges, a Swiss husband and wife team, Ernst and Eva Bachinger . We borrowed the British Dressage Supporters head phones. These consisted of one huge battery into which we plugged about eighty sets of head phones and spread out the wires over the benches in Obaldeston’s gallery like a huge spider and the audience donned the head phones and listened to a commentary given by any of the spare judges that we dragooned into service. No one was quite as used to doing this as they are now. It was a three day show. On the middle evening , Saturday, we held the Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix freestyle competition.

 

Five hundred people packed into the arena , all our helpers dressed up and had their hair done for the occasion, the judges in the centre of the school were introduced to the audience and presented with gifts by members of the NDG and then the competition began. By good luck we got the riders in ascending order of merit so that the performances got better and better and the atmosphere more and more electric so that the final test was performed with an incredible dramatic flourish which brought the house down.

 

During the prize giving , Pammie Hutton because it was she, made a speech of congratulation and thanks to the NDG for a wonderful show and called for three cheers for the organisers. The Club won an award for the best show and Norman the best Venue for that year from British Dressage. We ran a premier League for the next few years later continued by Norman. The only missing year was 2001 when there was foot and Mouth disease over the whole country.

The last five years we have run a Ball and an auction at the Dunkenhalgh Hotel which has raised money for the air ambulance in this area and money for the Club to subsidise training for our members. Many of them have qualified for Winter and Summer Regionals, some going up to the Championships. We have many more instructors both home grown and visiting.

 

We always try to look for the niche in the market to push out into new directions, whether it is running a Premier League or taking on the Sponsorship of the Dressage and Jumping competition which we did in1998-2000 when there was no official sponsor willing to take it on.

 

We thought that it was too important a competition to let drop from the calendar because for the horse to become an all round athlete it should be able to jump. We have pushed the free style to music when it was in its infancy and held advanced competitions in the early days so that people in the North West could see horses working at an advanced level. At long last another pet project is coming into fruition, as people are beginning to realize that to ride an athletic horse they need to be more athletic themselves. Members are beginning to do something about their own balance and fitness, going to dismounted exercise classes of every type.

In the forty years since this club was started we have seen Dressage improve and multiply in every direction so that the original aims of our club to encourage riding as a sport and recreation, to promote good fellowship amongst riders and to improve and maintain the standard of riding jumping and horsemastership have been well and truly met. Over the years many people have been members, some famous and some unknown, some still with us and some sadly not, they have contributed to the success of Dressage today and we must be grateful to them all.

 

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