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Riding Schools and Clubs

Riding schools originated from equestrian contests popular in Melbourne since its early years. Emerald Hall in South Melbourne, listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, was home from 1874 to George Lauder's riding school and gymnasium, and was managed by his daughter Mrs Watt until it became a bicycle-riding school in 1897. The Irving family, with the key involvement of three sisters, Marjorie, Kay and Phillipa, established the Waverley Riding School at Jordanville in 1933, and by the mid-1940s, following a boom in horse-riding during World War II, it had become the premier riding school in Australia, with weekday, weekend and residential programs serving several hundred clients from all over Melbourne. Kay Irving (awarded an MBE in 1976 for services to women's sports) founded the Waverley Pony Club in 1945, and within a year the club had more than 50 members. In the 1950s other suburban pony clubs began to foster dressage events, while showjumping was also promoted at the Royal Melbourne Show and other agricultural fairs. In January 1954, at the instigation of Colonel A.V. Pope, an Englishman formerly with the Indian Army, the Pony Club Association of Victoria was formed. Following the 1956 Olympic Games, the 'Militaire', a demanding event requiring elite riders and their horses to perform tests of obedience, boldness and fitness over a three-day period, was introduced to Australia, and Melbourne now regularly hosts this major three-day event. A national pony club council was formed in 1961, with permanent offices established in Melbourne in 1974. There are now more than 200 pony clubs in Victoria, with in excess of 8000 members. A new State equestrian centre was built at Werribee in 1984, and there are an increasing number of equestrian associations involved in dressage, showjumping, polo, polocrosse, horse trials, recreation riding, rodeo activities and showing.

Rob Hess

Robertson, A.L, The lasting impact of the Waverley Riding School: the amazing Irving sisters Marjorie, Kay and Pippa, A.L Robertson, Melbourne, 1994. Details