Horseman’s Sunday was diversified this year: anyone with a pet was invited to attend the service on the Hill at midday, and there were more dog owners than horse riders. In fact, there were fewer than thirty horses ridden, and a handful more in hand. Old hands remember there being upwards of 1,000 horses as late as the 1970s, and I can recall standing in line to be announed among at least 100 others in the rain just a decade or so ago.
Why don’t people turn up anymore? It can’t just be the weather: today was perfect, with fine sunshine and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees. Certainly, some are discouraged by the gypsy trotters with their carts racing up and down the ‘platform’: the borough council having in recent years closed Tattenham Corner Road, the racing now takes place even nearer, inside the racecourse, and the police seem uninterested so long as the road closure is enforced.
Perhaps others are turned off by a religious service, and the singing of hymns, which a larger proportion of the community might have felt more comfortable with 30 or 40 years ago. But then, without the service and blessing, what would Horseman’s Sunday be for?
And finally, maybe riders have better things to do: many horse owners have a horse box these days, and can box out to shows, dressage competitions or hacks. There were shows on Sunday at Pachesham Equestrian Centre and Great Bookham Equestrian Centre. Many riders may find attending a show more appealing.
What could be done to reinvigorate Horseman’s Sunday?