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Jane Badger Books

Ruby Ferguson: Jill's Riding Club (paperback)

Ruby Ferguson: Jill's Riding Club (paperback)

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"Other people make a success of riding clubs and I don't see why we shouldn't. It's about the only thing we haven't tried in Chatton."

Ann Derry, Jill's greatest friend, has a bright idea. They need something to do in the summer, so why not start a riding club? Or, to be more accurate, why doesn't Jill start a riding club? Jill is not keen to start with but with typical Jill verve, start a riding club is exactly what she does. Not everything goes to plan: it's much harder work corralling a load of riders you don't know than Jill thought, and her ghastly cousin Cecilia turning up doesn't help either.

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IT was one of those wet Saturdays when you argue for a long time about what you are going to do and in the end you do nothing.

“Everybody thinks it would be an awfully good idea if we had a riding club here in Chatton,” said my friend Ann Derry.

“Who’s everybody?” I said.

“Oh well, everybody, really. And everybody thinks it would be a jolly good thing if you started one.”
“I like that!” I said. “Why pick on me?”

“Well, you do more or less start everything round here, don’t you?”

“I’m not starting a riding club,” I said. “It’s too much jolly fag. If anybody else wants to start one I wouldn’t mind joining.”

“Oh, yes you would,” said Ann, with a flash of insight into my character which I can only describe as supersonic. “I can’t see you joining a riding club that Susan Pyke started, or that your cousin Cecilia started. You know you wouldn’t like any riding club that you hadn’t started yourself.”

“There’s something in that,” I said. “What does a riding club do, anyway?”

“Well, everybody joins, and you get a paddock—”

“Where from?”

“Oh gosh, I don’t know. Don’t interrupt. There must be millions of paddocks lying around doing nothing. You get one, and you have a meeting once a week or as often as you want, and you get somebody who knows all about equitation to come and lecture to you; and then you school everybody like mad; but the point is, that in the end you can have your own one-day event. Don’t you think it would be marvellous to run a gymkhana, for instance, ourselves?”

I thought this over, and admitted it wouldn’t be bad at all. In fact it appealed to me very much. It might be worth starting a riding club to run one’s own gymkhana, and perhaps it wouldn’t be too much of a bind. Perhaps we could get hold of some worthy types of people who would do the actual work.

“How do we begin?” I said.

“You mean, you’ll really do it? Nice work!” said Ann.

“If we don’t like it we can always give it up,” I said. “Who do you think would join?”

“Oh, crowds of people. You needn’t worry about people not wanting to join.”

“But we don’t want a lot of drips,” I said.

Ann thought a bit and said, “I expect we’ll have to have some drips. I mean, you can’t say ‘drips not admitted to the riding club’, because nobody actually thinks that he or she is a drip. That is only apparent to other people. I mean, there might be people who thought that you and I were drips.”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “You know what drips are. There are two types; people who can’t ride and won’t bother to improve, and people who can’t ride and think they can. I don’t know which are worse. You can’t teach either lot anything.”

“You might be able to do something with the first lot.”

“I’d rather not do anything with either lot,” I said. “But from what I know about riding clubs—which isn’t much—you’ve got to put up with anybody who wants to join. You get an awfully mixed entry.”

“That’s the whole point, I suppose,” said Ann. “People join riding clubs to learn as well as have fun. But if you’re a properly organised riding club, really important experts are willing to come and teach you because they think they are doing something noble for the cause of equitation.”

“I think you’d better run this show yourself if you know so much about it,” I said.

“Oh no, Jill, you do it, and I’ll back you up.”

“That’s what you think,” I said.

We didn’t talk any more about the idea of the riding club, as at that moment Mummy came in and said she would take us to the pictures, seeing it was such a beastly wet Saturday afternoon; but during the evening I thought the idea over.

If you have read my previous books you will realise that I had done quite a lot since I came to live in Chatton five years ago, in fact, there seemed to be very little in the local world of equitation that I hadn’t had a stab at at one time or another. My adventures, in fact, had already made four books, and I didn’t think there was much else that could happen to me. I had one more year at school ahead of me, and that would be mainly marred by swotting for my leaving certificate, after which I had a wild and woolly dream of going to work as a groom at Captain Cholly-Sawcutt’s stables—if he thought I was good enough. I hadn’t planned anything for the approaching holidays, beyond trying to win a spot of Grade C jumping—if anybody would be rash enough to lend me a horse to do it on—and I thought it would just be the usual round of events. And now Ann had to crash in with this riding club idea.

The one thing I hadn’t thought of was a riding club, and I could see that it would be quite something for Chatton to have one. Everybody rode, of course. They learnt at various riding schools, or taught themselves, or ‘grew up on a horse’ like farmers’ children, or were taught by their adoring but occasionally misguided parents who had themselves learnt to ride in the dark bygone ages of about 1932. The only time all these people had the chance to meet one another and exchange ideas was in the show ring, where as you know—what with having the needle and thinking how much better turned out everybody looks than yourself—you haven’t much time for exchanging anything at all but nervous glances.
So the more I thought about a riding club the more it seemed to be a useful thing, as well as good fun; only I still kept thinking, why pick on me to run it? Now if somebody like Susan Pyke had chosen to run a riding club I could have understood it—except that I couldn’t imagine anybody in their senses joining a riding club run by Susan Pyke. But there were also jolly decent people like the Heath twins. Why couldn’t they start a riding club? Oh well, I thought, if it’s got to be me, then it’s got to be me, and that’s all there is to it. Probably nobody will join and it’ll all fizzle out, but nobody in Chatton can say we didn’t try a riding club while we had the chance.

Page length:

Original publication date: 1956

Who's in the book?

Human:
Jill Crewe, Ann Derry, Susan Pyke, Cecilia, Catherine Crewe, Val and Jack Hobday Heath, Mrs Derry, Pam Derry, Clarissa Dandleby, Diana Bush, John Watson, Miss Durdon, Mercy Dulbottle, Mrs Whirtley, Mrs Darcy, Major Hooley, The Cholly-Sawcutts, Stanley and Mr Trimble
Equine:
Black Boy, Rapide, Havelock, Buttons, George, Pretty Pete

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