This year's East Anglia event was held at the National Heritage Centre in Newmarket on May 22nd. The newly developed centre is comprised of three main attractions, the new National Horseracing Museum, a National Art Gallery of Sporting Art and the Retraining of Racehorses programme. The new Heritage Centre was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen who is it's Patron in November 2016.
The group of 27 Fellows and their guests were welcomed by Douglas Downing, our host for the day, in the Mews private room. After we had received a very welcome coffee and biscuits Douglas gave a detailed and interesting introductory talk explaining what the centre had to offer.
The group were then invited to view the various attractions in the centre. The main body of the Museum was situated in the Trainer’s House. In the first of five galleries we saw the origins of horseracing, the emergence of it as a national sport and Newmarket’s place in its development. Moving into the Maktoum Gallery we discovered what makes the racehorse such a unique equine animal and saw the secrets of the Thoroughbred Pedigree detailed in the ultimate family tree tracing back to the start of the sport in the mid-eighteenth century. We witnessed the strong royal connections to racing and the Jockey Club’s activities.
Situated in the very impressive Palace House was the Museum and Galleries of British Sporting Art - featuring paintings by George Stubbs, Sir Alfred Munnings, John Singer Sargent and John Wootton showcasing the finest British sporting art from around the UK. Over the three floors images were shown of traditional popular rural pursuits and the development of these through paintings, sculptures, print-making and the applied arts.
The newly developed Rothschild yard is the flagship of the Retraining of Racehorses programme and shows how thoroughbreds can be very effectively re-trained for a satisfying and successful life after racing. At this stage we met Julia Gibson, a volunteer who illustrated the difference between training a horse for the racetrack and training it effectively for a second career either, in competitive arenas such as eventing, dressage, showing, polo or purely for the pleasure of riding. We were introduced to a young five year old gelding, retired through injury and were shown how he retrained for other equestrian pursuits. In particular he was retrained to hold his head lower , be able to turn better and develop different muscles to support his new role and bear a heavier saddle for a totally different rider position. Julia gave a fantastic demonstration with incredible knowledge and enthusiasm and her love of horses was clear to see by all.
We were blessed with fantastic weather for the day and a welcome pre lunch drink was enjoyed by most in the sunshine outside the Tack Room Restaurant. A two course lunch was served in a separated area in the restaurant and was of the highest standard. Compliments were given to head chef Adam and thanks to Eliza, the duty manager. A raffle was held after lunch and a bottle of champagne was won by Christine Westley, a bottle of wine by Basil Westley and a box of chocolates by Ann Wheeler. Fellow Nick Challacombe kindly offered a vote of thanks to the organisers on behalf of the attendees. Following lunch the group separated and continued viewing areas they had not covered in the morning.