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Caithness equestrian clubs' golden anniversary celebrations hailed as great success


By Jean Gunn

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Pauline and George Coghill, Stemster, who were both on the first riding club committee, cutting the cake. George was the treasurer.
Pauline and George Coghill, Stemster, who were both on the first riding club committee, cutting the cake. George was the treasurer.

Around 100 guests attended joint 50th anniversary celebrations held by two local equestrian clubs at the weekend.

The event at the Norseman Hotel in Wick on Saturday night was hailed as a tremendous success, with lots of fun had by young and old. Many memories were shared by some of the former members who came along to join in the celebrations.

Guests were welcomed to the dinner and dance by former Pony Club district commissioner Maureen Coghill, while Jean Gunn, who recently stepped down as chairperson of Caithness Riding Club, gave a speech outlining the background to the clubs and sharing some anecdotes.

The riding club was formed in April 1972, and although the woman behind the initial plans, Janet Welsh, the secretary, was unable to attend the golden anniversary evening, she sent a letter congratulating all the committee members for keeping the groups going and wishing them success in the future.

The first riding club president was Charlie Dunnet, of Auchorn, and many events used to be held there.

A Caithness Courier report from August 30, 1972, about the inaugural gymkhana at Thurso East, stated that the club had been set up because of the growing interest in horses in the county. This was shown by the large increase in the number of horses and ponies entered in the County Show that year – 202 entries compared with 147 the previous year.

A group of former Pony Club mums with their daughters, all riders and members of both clubs – some now with grandchildren picking up the reins.
A group of former Pony Club mums with their daughters, all riders and members of both clubs – some now with grandchildren picking up the reins.

Its aims were to promote good horsemanship and sportsmanship among those with their own horses and to teach them how to look after their animals.

There were 45 members in the beginning and they met in Loch Watten Hotel, using Thurso East for fortnightly working rallies.

The newspaper report said they eventually planned to split into a riding club and a pony club, which duly happened the following year.

Concluding, Jean said: “Among the benefits brought by the clubs, one stands out for me and it is the friends you make along the way – many of whom you will create lasting bonds with, or indeed partners in crime, and they will continue to be mates for years to come.”

She added that she was looking forward to taking her own granddaughter along to events.

Cat MacGregor, the present minute secretary of the local branch of the Pony Club, read out a poem Willie Budge wrote to commemorate the anniversary.

The new chairperson of the riding club, Frances Sutherland, presented a slide show of all the photographs from over the years that members had supplied for the occasion.

The Norseman Hotel put on a carvery and this was followed by a disco, provided by Andrew Crawford of ADJ Events.

A photo booth set up by Christopher Bremner of Caithness Event Hire was a great hit with all ages and was busy all night, creating much amusement.

The event organisers said they were also grateful to all the local businesses and individuals that contributed to the raffle.


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