If Wishes Were Horses: Housework

Cringleford Riding School was opened by Paula Sykes just outside Norwich in 1963, and closed in 1997 after being crippled by a rates rise. It was the first horsey home for generations of Norfolk children, and I was tremendously sad to hear that it had closed. Here’s a brief slideshow of some of the ponies from my family photo album. I’d love to hear from anyone else who remembers them. Orlando was a rescue from the Horse Rescue Fund.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I was searching for material to share on Cringleford, I stumbled across this beautiful set of black and white shots taken by Ian Drake in 1976. See if you spot any ponies you recognise!

This post relates to a chapter of the book If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of an Equine Obsession. If you have any questions to ask about the content, please fire away in the comments. The main online index for the book is here.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hello, I was very excited to see your blog about Cringleford Riding School. It is where I learnt to ride and spent many a day, month, years from about 1973-1979. Brown Ale was one of my favourites and I won a prize at the East Anglian Riding School Competition on him-is that the black pony in your slideshow? I do remember Merlin (he of the pink lips), but not sure I ever rode him. My absolute favourite was a grey called Stormy (Ian took quite a few pictures of him-the black and white ones you refer to). I can remember a lot of the horses names from that time if you are interested, but not the roan in your slideshow.

    We returned to Norfolk for a funeral in September and went to look at the stables. I was quite shocked to see what looked like a ghost town. The stables were still standing but in a terrible state of repair. I cannot believe it has stood like that since 1997!

  2. That is indeed Brown Ale! He was quiet elderly when I was there and considered a “safe” ride so I’m intrigued to know more about his youth. I remember a small Smokey but not your Stormy. Did you have Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego? I think Shadrach was retired when I was there but we still rode Meshack. And Pickles?
    I was gutted to see the stables too, but glad that I have such strong memories of the place. And Ian’s photos are very beautiful. If we’d had more of a budget to have a picture for every chapter I was going to get in touch with him to ask if we could use one!

  3. Hi Susanna. I rode at Cringleford through the 1970s – was probably last there around 1982. I also rode Pickles, Brown Ale (who was there when I started and a safe ride even then), Stormy, Smokey, Orlando and Joe. There were several rescue ponies who all turned out very well – including a small one-eyed bay, whose name I can’t remember. My favourites were Jeeves, a bay thoroughbred type, Fury a tall, elderly piebald cob who refused to retire, Jumbles, a grey pony who arrived at the same time as Orlando – I adored all three of them. I also remember Victor (only ridden by the instructors), Mancha, Toby, Marty, Tommy Tucker, Donna, Oliver Twist (chestnut), Olly (huge liver chestnut), Timber, Yellow Tom and Brown Tom, Surprise, Pip, Dougal. Other than Paula, the instructors while I was there were Janet and Pat. I think it was a brilliant riding school and am glad I had the opportunity to go there.

  4. Tommy Tucker was still there when I was there. He used to get down and roll as soon as he got into the school ;) Orlando was from the Horse Rescue Fund, so I’m guessing that the other rescues were too? I’m hoping to write something in more detail about them soon when I have a spare second!
    I was always told that Joe and Pickles did Prince Philip Cup gymkhana competitions – do you know if that’s true? Joe won me my biggest rosette :)

  5. Hi Susanna, thanks for directing me here. My dates are 1963-1974/5. I owned Dandy 1968-1974/5 and spent every available spare hour there quite literally dawn to dusk. Cringleford Riding School was my childhood. If you are interested there is a Facebook page with more photos and 30 members.

  6. How lovely to hear memories of Cringleford, I used to help on a sunday (arrived at 7am to water, muck out, sweep yard, feed, clean tack)) then I had my lesson/hack on a sunday afternoon, loved the school. Favourite moments were riding the ponies bareback along the riverside to turn them out. I remember a liveries horse ex racehorse called Flea, and Taffy. What fun we had there, the love of my life were Marty, Jumbles then Pip. Camp was brilliant picnic rides great. Such happy memories x

  7. I’ve just downloaded your book and look forward to reading, congratulations.
    I was at cringleford 1986-1996, I remember Joe he lived in with chalky didn’t he? Didn’t he like to give you a nip when you did the girth up? Happy days indeed

  8. A wonderful part of my childhood. I guess it was from about 1974 to 1977 for me (aged 10 to 13). As with a previous post, I remember Brown Ale, Yellow Tom and Brown Tom, Polly, Orlando, Pickles, Jumbles, Toby, Mancha, Jeeves, Merlin (big lips!), Victor, Chalky (belonged to a friend of mine), Pickles, Pip (my favourite), Fury (my friend’s favourite), Surprise (scary awkward Mare!), Oliver Twist, Timber, Tommy Tucker…yes, I remember him rolling in the school too. Seems it was his trade mark!
    I live in Norwich and walked down the Loke a few years ago. I felt sad too. I just remember all the hot summers being down there. In my memory it was always busy and vibrant with lots going on. I can remember cold Friday nights in the Winter, waiting in the tack room to see which horse I had been given. Then coming home with cramp in my feet from the cold. I loved those days and the Summer holidays down there with my packed lunch. Happy times with no mad Health and Safety to spoil things! I’m back riding now, but the horses are brought out ready for us and we’re not allowed to go into the stables with them after the lesson. We were lucky to have the freedom back then. I uploaded the few photos I had to the Cringleford Riding School Facebook page last year.

  9. I learned to groom, tackup, feed, muck, sweep and clean tack before I learned to ride. I was 10 yrs old and would get on my bike every Saturday and Sunday morning before anyone was up. I’d be at the stables to ride one of the horses in from the fields. Groomed and tacked up the ponies for their riders. My Mum couldn’t afford for me to ride so I grabbed any chance I could get, so it was usually bareback to and from fields. My favourite horses were Silver (pony) and William (bay gelding). I remember names of a lot of them, if I list them see if anyone can remember them. Oh, and a special treat was when Paula let me ride Victor part of the way back from a ride. Horses I remember are: Tommy, Flame, Mitsy, Cindy, Senora, Mickey, Lulu, Firefly. This was in 1963-65. I now live in Canada (since 1972) and am riding on a regular basis and still loving it. Everytime I come home to Norwich I like to walk down the Loke and sadly see what’s left of Cringleford Riding School.

  10. My first love and always was noddy the day I was told I couldn’t ride him no more cos he was for beginners and I needed to move on I cryed when the stables closed if I was so upset if I could of took noddy with me I would have done x

  11. Just come across this lovely trip down memory lane. I rode at Cringleford in the early seventies and clearly remember Brown Tom, Yellow Tom, Pickles, Timber and the lovely Mitsi (spelt wrong probably}. Also Brown Ale, Noddy and a large grey called Jasper. Like others I used to love riding bareback to turn the ponies out. Happy days indeed. How sad that the place is now derelict.

  12. Great trip down memory lane, I think I’m in one of your photos blonde perm holding brown ale. I was about 15yrs then and went on to be an instructor at cringleford. Have some very good memories

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply