Thanks to the dedication of two local side saddle enthusiasts, the Costume Concours d’Elegance Class at the South of England Show has been preserved for the future. Three years ago is future was uncertain because numbers were dropping in side saddle classes generally at the show- and only one person competed in the Costume class.
Determined to stop these classes being removed from the schedule, Angela Winter and Belinda Wilkins set out to ensure they were preserved for the future.They were helped by the SOE organisers who moved the classes to the Saturday enabling working riders to compete for the first time.
Belinda, who lives in Walberton, West Sussex, and is the fifth of six generations of side saddle riders, set up a Facebook page -Side Saddle Classes at The South of England Show- to promote the classes and to encourage riders to enter this prestigious show.
This was very successful keeping riders and enthusiasts in touch and also made riders aware of the very early closing date for entries. Angela, Chairman of Area 8 Side Saddle Association, which has members in West and East Sussex, Surrey and Kent, put on showing clinics in the area to ensure novice riders were confident enough to perform in the arenas.
For the second year running the classes were sponsored by Belinda and her husband, Miles Wilkins. They have supported side saddle since their daughter Caroline first started riding side saddle in 1997 and enjoy seeing the pleasure they give to the watching crowds, which are often seeing this traditional way of riding for the first time.
To everyone’s delight, a number of top riders in the country together with other local riders, filled the Saturday classes at this year’s South of England Show. Spectators saw classes of the highest standard and elegance. The judge, Mrs Ros Collins from Berkshire, had a very difficult task, but her experienced eye carefully sorted the placing after each rider had performed their individual show.
Winner of the Concours d’Elegance was West Sussex rider Esther Rostron with her 15 year old chestnut gelding Penstrumbly Our Abram. Esther and Denzil, as he is known, have won the Concours d’Elegance at the show for four years in a row.
Another local rider Rachael Morley with nine-year-old grey gelding Super Ted, belonging to Paul Maris Lyon, was in the ribbons in both side saddle classes. In the costume class she was wearing a stunning pale plum and dove grey costume trimmed with grey and black frogging.
Rachael had designed the costume herself together with habit and costume maker, Trish Daly. The sun came out just at the right time like a spotlight on the arena.
After the classes the show organisers contacted Belinda and Angela to them the classes would definitely be included in the show programme for 2016 following this year’s outstanding success.