Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ridgway Stables

I've known these stables all my life. Literally.  They're sited in the old coaching stables at the back of the pub at the top of my parents' road - once the railway came to Wimbledon, the horses that pulled the horse-bus that met the trains and carried the passengers up Wimbledon Hill were stabled here.  I don't go back quite that far ... but my earliest memories, of living in Top Flat at 3 Ridgway, were rushing to the window when I heard hooves, watching the horses from the stables - at that time under the direction of Major Walker - heading down to what were then riding paddocks on Copse Hill, by the Atkinson Morley Hospital.  And once we moved back to Wimbledon, after a few years in the frozen north, they were, of course, just at the top of the road.

And now they're to close - as a riding school, anyway (a long story, involving landlords who keep pushing up rent, keep pushing up rent.  I'm devastated: these horses' expressions say it all.  I spent so much time here between the ages of 9 or 10, and 16 or 17 or so ... having formal riding lessons once a week (and it was only much, much later that I realised that this was far from financially easy on my parents), and then working at the stables before and after school - mucking out, hanging hay nets, filling feed buckets, throwing empty feed buckets back up into the hayloft, filling water buckets, grooming the ponies, cleaning and polishing tack, putting on bandages so certain horses didn't kick themselves in the night, changing their rugs in winter (to keep them warm), and so on - all for free rides, and - as I got older - the privilege of teaching younger children to keep their hands and their heels down.  It was the center of so many of my hopes and dreams and ambitions (and rivalries, but they weren't deep).  I so, so wanted to run a riding school When I Grew Up - at least until I was 14 or so.  Actually, I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but the stables' vet - whom I also knew through the Pony Club, where he'd give lectures and judge competitions on horse care, and suchlike - dissuaded me in very forceful terms: no woman was strong enough to work with horses, he said: I'd have to be a small animals specialist.   [I just Googled him - he was struck off the veterinary register, in the end, because his ex-wife was a drug addict, and overdosed on pethidine which he'd failed to keep locked up.  Gosh.  Still, if it hadn't been for him, and his sexism ...].

Of course, in all my elaborate daily plans and budgeting and roster-construction for running my (imaginary) riding school, I completely ignored the idea of paying rent, or taxes, or dealing with landlords.  Really, I guess what I was training myself for was the organizational side of being a Department Chair, which is a majorly sobering thought.

I spent time today talking with Julia, whom I've known for well over fifty years, and who's been running the stables for the last 35 of them (whilst doing other things as well, like an MA in English ...).  I'm feeling, as you'll imagine, very end-of-an-era ish.  End of an era?  End of a whole chunk of me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your blog and photos.

    From a parents whose child loves Ridgway stables.