Looking back on a lifetime’s equestrian contribution

Winning a side saddle team event, Valerie, centre, with ex pupils from her riding school
Winning a side saddle team event, Valerie, centre, with ex pupils from her riding school

STILL making an enormous contribution to the equestrian world is Valerie Millwood, who is renowned for her lifetime involvement with horses. She has lived in West Sussex for almost 30 years, first at Naldretts Farm, near Horsham, and now at Pulborough,

Valerie, who celebrated her 80th birthday last year, is looking ahead to a busy 2012, when she already has been booked to judge at Heathfield and South of England Shows, as well as other top events for the Side Saddle Association and the Show Horse Association.

She will continue to share her years of experience with side saddle riders in West Sussex at clinics at Brinsbury, and has saddle fittings booked in for riders who are keen to learn the discipline.

Horses are second nature to Valerie, who grew up with them, when her family owned a firm of undertakers which specialised in using hearses drawn by black-plumed horses.

She was taught by the very best, having been trained by the late Count Robert Orssich, one of the finest and most elegant horsemen of his day, and a master of turnout of both horse and rider in the ring.

“I also trained for side saddle under Sybil Smith, who taught the Queen. She was an outstanding teacher and a great character. In those days I also had horses at Sea Lane Stables in Angmering,” Valerie recalled.

Valerie went on to produce and show ponies, hacks and cobs - and later Arabs, competing against the greatest of the day, such as Sam Marsh and Harry Tatlow. She started out running the Bridge Barn Riding School and Show Training Stables near Woking for 21 years, producing top class children’s show ponies. She also specialised in the art of teaching side saddle at a time when this art was in the decline. Two of her young pupils were the Slater-Hunt sisters and with them she won the prestigious Riding Schools Team Class at the Richmond Royal Horse Show in the mid-50s.

Valerie won a huge range of championships in the saddle, Arabs, show horses and hacks, at the Royal Richmond Horse Show, Royal Windsor and other top venues.

For full page feature, see Equestrian Page in the West Sussex Gazette, January 4 2012