Cowichan District Riding Club
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History of the Cowichan District Riding Club

The purpose of the Society is: to develop and promote interest in horses and horsemanship and for this purpose to engage in equestrian spots, equestrian education, and to promote safety in equestrian sports and for the better conduct of such activities to own, rent, build and operate fields, stables, show rings, both covered and open, and all other types of real estate and personal property and equipment for furthering of the said objects.

The Carole Ridgway Service Award was established by her family in 2005 in memory of Carole and "honouring the service of a special member". Each year the members vote for the club member volunteer who deserves recognition.

2016 was the first year for the Chris Archibald Memorial Horsemanship trophy. The Pony Club and 4H club each decide on their respective member that deserves the recognition for their horsemanship.

The following information comes from lifetime member Henrietta Rae in a conversation with Lynn Bolton in 1992:

The Cowichan District Riding Club was officially organized April 29, 1929. The object was to look after the interests of horse owners in the whole district." Captain R.E. Barkley of Westholme was the honorary president and present were Dorothy Hogan (Mrs. Watney), Marguerite Waldy (Mrs. R. Hyde), Marjorie Norie, Ulrica Norie, Peter Annandale, Doreen Day, Muriel Price and Phyllis Springett. The Meeting was held at the Brackmont, Cowichan Station, the home of Mrs. L. Norie. A practice gymkhana was held at Smurthwaite Place on Sept 1, 1929. The Riding Club was responsible for organizing the gymkhana on the Friday, and the horse show on Saturday at the Fall Fair Sept 13, 1929. The first of many. The judge said, I have never seen such wonderful competition as there as been here. Not a weak class in gymkhana or horse show.

The following day polo was played at Prices Field (now St. Ann's school/Providence Farm). So the club got off to a good start. The Cowichan Leader, 1930, reported On Easter Monday five hundred spectators enjoyed amateur races on Gibbons farm, Hillbank, organized by Cowichan District Riding Club. (the first of many Easter Monday hunter trials, later held at Deacon's farm near Mt. Prevost.)

In 1935 a paperchase was organized, starting at Mays and Herd Road and ending at Matthews farm, Westholme for tea. Mrs. P. Springett was secretary of club and weekly rides became a feature. About 1935 thoroughbred enthusiasts Geoffrey Lomas and Mr & Mrs. Wilfred Hillyard, built a quarter mile race track, stabling for 26 horses and a caretakers cottage at Lowhill Park (where the high school gym now stands, round Garden Street and the school grounds, otherwise it was all grass and huge maple trees) Mr. & Mrs W.E. Mackenzie were managers and trained some horses there.

During the War years, when the Army occupied the Agricultural grounds, shows were held in the infield to raise money for war work. A battery of Royal Canadian Field Artillery trained in Duncan. All the men learned to ride, and some entered riding club events. When the inspector General arrived from Ottawa, the Cowichan Battery paraded all mounted, with field guns drawn by horses and officers mounted on the club members best borrowed horses, all careening around Lowhill Park at full gallop! It was only the second all mounted battery in Canada, the other being in Calgary.

Weekly rides were club features, often ending at a club member's home for tea. On Sunday afternoons, gymkhanas, including junior events were held. Early junior members were Auriol Stone (now Robertson) and Stan Green, long-time staunch supporters of the CDRC. Trail rides organized by Auriol have been enjoyed around Mesachie Lake, followed by a club lunch. The Fraser Valley Foxhounds came twice to the Valley sponsored by CDRC.

When Mrs. Watney returned from England in 1940, her enthusiasm revived club events and competition in horse shows. She traveled to Victoria and mainland shows and encouraged outside riders to enter Island shows. She was instrumental in reviving Cobble Hill Fall Fair which fitted between Saanich and Duncan. Back then many horses were ridden to the shows and home again, until increased traffic made this impossible.

In 1948 a branch of the international Pony Club was formed in Duncan encouraging the junior riders. The first chairman was Miss N.C. Denny (of Queen Margaret's School) and Yvonne Scott (Mrs Nelson) secretary. Junior riding took a leap forward with Cowichan teams placing well abroad. The Cowichan branch still flourishes and more juniors join the Cowichan 4-H horse club.

In the 1970s the riding became more specialized, into sections for dressage, hunters, jumping and hacks, besides breed shows, with cross country riding still having its devotees and the Cobble Hill Riders organizing in the south end of the district. Many good shows have been held in the Agricultural Grounds.

    
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  April 10, 2019. 7:00 CTRA Lounge at Providence Farm.
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